Thursday, March 4, 2010

Teen/YA Review: Camilla

I jumped at the chance to review Camilla by Madeleine L’Engle because she was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid and teen. Camilla, though, is a very different kind of novel than her better-known sci-fi series that starts with A Wrinkle in Time. L’Engle’s writing talents still shine through in this classic coming-of-age story that I listened to in audio.

Camilla Dickinson is 15 years old, lives in New York City and has lived a happy life so far with her parents, with little strife or suffering. All of a sudden, though, things start to go wrong, and it seems to her that her life is crumbling around her. She doesn’t know where to turn until she meets Frank, her best friend’s brother. The two immediately become lost in conversation, and Camilla feels like she has met her soul mate.

Camilla and Frank spend long hours roaming through the streets of New York and talking about every subject they can think of, from war to religion to philosophy. Frank introduces Camilla to new people – some of them far different than anyone she has encountered before in her sheltered life – and, despite the heartbreak she feels at the divisions forming in her family, Camilla feels alive and in love for the first time in her life.

Although this novel was originally published in 1951, its themes are still relevant today. There are minor hints of its age – especially the prices for a meal in NYC! – but the things that Camilla experiences are similar to what teens today experience: the crushing disappointment at finding out your parents aren’t as perfect as you thought they were, the pull between being a child and growing up, and the universal feelings of a first love. Camilla is a wonderful narrator, full of youthful exuberance about her city and her new love, as she works through the challenges of growing up.

272 pages, Square Fish (reissue)

Listen to a sample at

1 comment:

visionbird said...

I loved "A Wrinkle in Time". I'd really like to read this one too, as soon as I get to the library.