By Paula Rawsthorne
Published by Usborne
ISBN 978 1 4095 3109 8
The Truth About Celia Frost is one of those rare novels that goes in directions you least expect. It begins intriguingly and quickly springs off in a thrilling direction with questions and doubts flying all over the place. Finally, when the truth about young Celia is revealed, it comes as a breathless but satisfying surprise.
Paula Rawsthorne was one of the winners of the Society of Children's Book Writers 2010 "Undiscovered Voices" competition, and Celia Frost is her first novel.
Fourteen-year-old Celia Frost is a lonely misfit. She is tall and gangly with a shock of ginger hair. Her mother, Janice, is incredibly protective, and encourages her daughter to stay away from other people. She seems to have a good reason: Celia suffers from a rare blood condition that prevents her blood from clotting if she is cut - even a simple accident could cause enough blood loss to kill her.
Janice has effectively wrapped her in cotton wool since birth; while this might have protected Celia from accidents, it's done nothing for her confidence. And Celia has never understood why she and her mum have moved from town to town for the last 14 years. Just when Celia feels settled somewhere, Janice ups sticks, and off they go to another town where nobody knows them. Her mum has dedicated her life to protecting Celia. But from what?
When Celia is cut in a knife attack at her latest school, she's whisked off to hospital in an ambulance with all sirens blaring. But the doctor who treats her can find nothing wrong with her blood, and announces that Celia isn't in danger. Her mother has spent years telling her that her blood will not clot, but it does. Celia begins to wonder what is going on.
Janice will not answer Celia's questions about her condition, or anything else. Her response is to pack their bags and move away. When they find a new home where nobody knows them, the relationship between mother and daughter starts to disintegrate with dramatic results. Why is Janice so frightened of the truth? And just what is the truth about Celia Frost?
Rawsthorne has an unusual story to tell, and she does so with all the expertise of a seasoned writer. The author builds up the suspense gradually and believably, and when Celia discovers the truth about her life, readers are as surprised as Celia is herself. The final chase chapters in Celia Frost are as exciting as anything you could hope to see in an action thriller movie.
This is a book you have to set time aside for, so you can read it in one go, because you won't be able to put it down. Rawsthorne is an excellent storyteller who knows how to involve readers from chapter one and hang onto them until the end.
This outstanding debut does just what a novel should do. It makes you want to turn the pages almost faster than you can read them to find out what happens next. What more could any reader ask for?
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com