CELINE by Brock Cole. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1989. $13.95. 216 pages.
This straightforward first-person narrative of a 16-year-old artist is written with vitality and boldness. As Celine tries to find harmony in her life, young adults realize the struggle in an atypical family; a mother living in South America, 21-year-old stepmother, and a father who goes about the world with little concern for his daughter.What Cole has done - equally well as in "The Goats" - is develop characterizations with unflinching truth. This is especially true of Celine, who desperately seeks recognition through her zany art pieces while finding ways to avoid gym class ("Do you think you could please write me a letter . . . Just say Celine Morienval is excused from swimming for the entire semester for reasons of personal health . . . " or rewriting an essay on Holden Caulfield.)
Celine is a likable young lady who speaks her mind: "My father's exact words: `Show a little maturity,' he said, which I've doped out to mean: Pass all your courses, avoid detection in all crimes and misdemeanors, don't get pregnant . . . Show a little maturity. If I was any more mature, I'd have Alzheimer's disease . . . " Her moods swing from joyful to melancholy. Finding herself in a psychiatrist's office on pretense exhibits her lack of inhibitions yet foresight: "The wave breaks and great quantities of salty tears are pouring out of my eyes and nose and down my throat. No, this is too much for simple tears. I think my brain must have dissolved."
When Jake, a neighbor kid, is dumped on her for a weekend, Celine shows what her "inner stuff" really is. Using language that smacks of reality, Cole writes of personal triumph and tragedy and adds appeal for young people who feel the first glimmer of love.
While the episodes relate to teen parties, nudity and family differences, they are done tastefully. There is enough tension, humor and real life to make "Celine" a "must read" for adolescents 15 and up.
"Celine" was named a "Best Book for 1990" by the American Library Association.