Review: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

Feeling Sorry for Celia CVR_SI.indd

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Release date: 2000
Format: Paperback
Pages: 262
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Dear Ms Clarry,

It is with great pleasure that we invite you to join our Society.

We have just found out about your holiday. It is so impressive! You had four assignments, an English essay and a chapter of Maths to do. And you didn’t do a single piece of homework!


Also we have a feeling that you have a History test today. And you’re trying to study now? On the bus? With the Brookfield boys climbing onto each other’s shoulders to get to the emergency roof exit? And with Celia about to get on the bus at any moment? And you think that’s going to make a difference!!!

That’s really very amusing, Elizabeth. We like you for it.

You’re perfect for our Society and we’re very excited about having you join.

Yours sincerely,

The Manager
Society of People who are Definitely Going to Fail High School (and Most Probably Life as Well!)


4 stars

Dear Reader,

Feeling Sorry for Celia is somewhat of a classic in Australia (Jeann @ Happy Indulgence told me that she had to read it for school). I kind of wish I had read it for school because I would have totally loved this as a teen! It’s completely relatable to not only Australians but everybody around the world!

Despite what the title suggests, this book is not about Celia. This novel follows the life of Elizabeth Clarry, a 15 year old high school student from Sydney. Her mother is a bit flighty and neglectful, her father who left her mother before Elizabeth was born has now moved back to Sydney from Toronto, and her best and only friend, Celia, has gone missing. Her high school starts a pen pal system with a nearby school and Elizabeth develops a new friendship with her pen pal, Christina.

Feeling Sorry for Celia is very much a slice-of-life kind of novel, written entirely in epistolary form. It not only includes letters between Elizabeth and Christina, but also little notes between Liz and her mother and terrifyingly mean letters from random associations like the Society of People who are Definitely Going to Fail High School, COLD HARD TRUTH ASSOCIATION, Housewives of the World United, The Society of High School Runners Who Aren’t Very Good at Long Distance Running but Would be if they Just Trained, The Association of Teenagers, etc. These letters from the random societies are most likely just random thoughts in Elizabeth’s head but they were incredibly insightful and funny to read. I really enjoyed that this book was written in epistolary form because it allowed us to get to know Elizabeth’s personality and to enjoy her humour. It felt intimate and I was completely drawn into her life and all the chaos around her, despite the book being more of a slice-of-life, everyday kind of story.

I thought the characters in this book were quirky and interesting, but they never came across as too quirky. While some of the characters behaved in drastic and unusual ways, the format of the book made everything seem lighthearted and just right. The book had a great balance of humour, solemnity, heartbreak and optimism, which made it just a pleasure to read. I never felt the chaos or the burden of all of Elizabeth’s problems and it was just a joy to be able to see into Elizabeth’s life and follow her as she discovers different aspects of herself. I thought it was a wonderful coming-of-age story that most young adults will be able to relate to or connect with. It’s a story about friendship and what it means to be a friend, but it’s also a story about how to be your best self even when faced with problems that you don’t want anything to do with. It has the beautiful writing that I’ve come to associate with Jaclyn Moriarty, after having read A Corner of White and The Cracks in the Kingdom a couple weeks ago.

If you’re looking for a funny book with a cast of very funny characters, I’d highly recommend this one. It was a very quick read because of the epistolary format and it’s impossible not to love Elizabeth, her mother and Elizabeth’s secret admirer who is sorrybutnotsorry about remaining anonymous.

Kind regards,

The Society of This Review is Really Short and Unstructured but it’s Currently Really Hot in Sydney and I Have Lost the Ability to Think and Write but You Should Read This Book or Any Book by Jaclyn Moriarty.


8 thoughts on “Review: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I actually hadn’t heard of it until really recently (shame on me) but it was such a wonderful surprise! It was really well written and I was able to get the full impact of the story even though it was written completely as a series of notes and letters!


  1. Josephine says:

    Oooh, as a fellow Australian, I now feel obliged to read this ‘Australian classic’! It sounds like such a unique and lighthearted novel with a touch of deeper meanings beneath! I like the idea that it’s written entirely in the form of letters.
    Great review, Jenna!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Haha I’d actually never heard of it until I saw it at the bookstore and bought it. But lots of people seem to have read it. It was really lighthearted and funny and I’m definitely keen to read the others in the series. I think there are 3 more that are written in the same format and feature the pen pal system but feature different characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ksenia says:

    Funny, I’ve been thinking about this book just a couple of weeks ago. I’ve heard positive things about it from several of my friends. Epistolary format not always works for me, so I had my doubts. I also don’t like quirky characters. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this book, Jenna! I also have a feeling this kind of book would be better in audio format, I’ll probably check out audiobook. Thanks for your helpful review!

    Liked by 1 person

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