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(Camilla #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  3,380 ratings  ·  261 reviews
Life had always been easy for fifteen-year-old Camilla Dickinson. But now her parents, whom she had always loved and trusted, are behaving like strangers to each other and vying for her allegiance. Camilla is torn between her love for them and her disapproval of their actions.Then she meets Frank, her best friend's brother, who helps her to feel that she is not alone. Can ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 15th 1982 by Laurel Leaf Library (first published 1951)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,380 ratings  ·  261 reviews

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Deborah Markus
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
A reviewer at the Saturday Review compared Camilla to The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield and Camilla Dickinson, the protagonists in question, are a bit like Romeo and Juliet: he gets some terrific lines and flails around memorably, but she's the one who grows and matures and doesn't have an ego so huge it could eat New York City without having to open its mouth all the way.


I don't understand why Camilla isn't better known. As in, it doesn't seem to be known at all. It's a beautifull
Jan 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, young-adult, romance
I took a little sidetrek in my goal of reading all of the Austin family books. "Camilla" fits in nicely with them, because it has similar themes about growing up, realizing a person's autonomy, religion, the debate over what makes a person matter, and of course lots of discussion about life and death.

One more motif I picked up from this reading is L'Engle's use of cruel adults. In "Camilla" it was the family's maid and the geography teacher who denied having ignored Camilla's pleas to go to the
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Things I liked:
1) A book about a rich girl in 1950s New York. Even if she weren't likable, that would still be a fun read.
2) The characters are flawed, but nice. They are individuals, even if they do stick to their assigned character traits a little too vehemently.
3) The philosphical questions raised about growing up and being an individual were meaningful. Not so much to me, because I'm kind of past those, but they were real.
4) The romance between Camilla and Frank was nice. There were enough m
Aug 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
I recently went back and reread this, which was an odd experience because I'm now much more familiar with A Live Coal in the Sea, which tells Camilla's story when she's an adult.

One thing I love about L'Engle's worlds is that people actually grow up in them, and also that they're all interconnected -- Frank Rowan, who appears as a secondary but important character in this book as a teenager, shows up as a minor character in A House Like a Lotus when he's middle-aged. Camilla grows up and has chi
Andrew Bishop
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The story of two dysfunctional families and the eponymous character at the middle of it all, Camilla. This is a difficult book to recommend because the writing is excellent, but the characters - Camilla excepted - are horrible people incapable of any meaningful self-reflection. Frank, the brother of Camilla's best friend Luisa, manages to be worse than the terrible parents in both families. Frank is the sort of blowhard that one could imagine had discovered Ayn Rand and had developed his massive ...more
Summary: In Camilla by Madeleine L'Engle, fifteen year old Camilla discovers her mother is having an affair. Her parents quarrel and her mother attempts suicide. Camilla's friend Luisa has parents who are also having problems and may even separate. Camilla begins to spend more and more time with Luisa's brother Frank who is seventeen and talks with her about deep subjects like death, life, and God. Unlike Luisa's immature friendship, Frank offers Camilla something more and she begins to have rom ...more
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I noticed Camilla on my local library’s shelf, I knew I had to pick it up because I adore her Time Quartet series featuring A Wrinkle in Time. And when I read the back cover copy and learned that it was about a 15-year-old girl figuring out her place in the world while walking the streets of New York City with her first boyfriend and discussing life, death, religion, and their deepest secrets and dreams, I knew that I had to read it immediately. I love novels set in the Big Apple, and the p ...more
Aug 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is classic L'Engle - thoughtful, philosophical, family/friend-centered. Camilla is 15 years old, living with her parents in a nice apartment by Central Park not long after WWII. (At first, I thought the war referred to was the Vietnam War.) She has lived a sheltered life so far. Her parents have always been loving, unlike her best friend, Luisa's, parents, who are always fighting. But suddenly, issues that have been simmering for years boil over, and Camilla must figure out how to live her ...more
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: introspective female teens
This was my least liked book by Madeleine L'Engle. She began writing romances suitable for a young adult audience and Camilla is one of those; another tale about a teenage girl having trouble with her parents. Camilla lives with these parents in an apartment in New York City. She loves them both though her father is a distant, undemonstrative sort and her mother is childlike.

When Camilla discovers her mother kissing another man right in their living room, she falls into confusion. She has to lea
Apr 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
Madeleine, Madeleine, how could you? From the heights of A Wrinkle in Time to the depths of Camilla. Camilla is the most naive and self-absorbed fifteen year old I've yet encountered (in or out of literature). She's told by umpteen people that she's beautiful and smart and delicious and everyone loves her and she never once says anything positive to her poor friend, Louisa--- but only thinks how much Louisa victimizes her. And Frank!! Frank says to Camilla, "You made me do it" (shake her). What ...more
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
May 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: L'Engle fans who might not know of this book
This is not one of the better known Madeleine L’Engle books and it’s not about the Murray or the Austen families, and there’s no sci-fi in it. It’s a stand alone novel. A lovely story told from the point of view of the fifteen year old title character. I love all of L’Engle’s books and this one was another beautifully told story. It’s been years since I read it and it might be considered dated now, but there’s nothing that ever gets dated about L’Engle’s great storytelling and sympathy for her c ...more
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is so incredibly underrated. I remember reading this book as a child, and feeling like I WAS Camilla, walking into a record shop to listen to classical music, the teenage excitement of first love, coming home to meet my mother's lover, all of it...I felt it was happening to me and I love this book to pieces. ...more
Just couldn't find anyone to like in this one.* Not Camilla's cheating mother or emotionally distant father or Camilla herself, even, especially after she ditches her best friend Luisa to spend time with a boy (her best friend's brother Frank, no less!) who was also unlikeable. Why does Camilla think he's so neat-o anyway? He asks her like one thing about herself and then spends the rest of the time being moody and self-absorbed. Yuck. I kinda get that the idea is that everyone is flawed and at ...more
Aug 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Camilla is a novella I'm surprised to say I enjoyed.
It was something I thought I would find no similarities in, with myself.
It was advertised at a clumsily coming-of-age romance. I detest these.
But I thought I'd give it a try, seeing as it was entitled "Camilla" and all.
Reading Camilla was like pursuing some parts of my past and the functions of my amygdala in every-day situations.
While the events in this story don't obviously correlate to my life, I found some strikingly similar scenarios
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
'Oh, my gosh. Why did I just waste those precious minutes?' is what I thought after I read this book. 'Why was I tricked into thinking that Camilla would be interesting? Because she's wearing a blue coat and red scarf?'

Aside from the quirky color choices, which I must credit to the illustrator and not to Camilla, I couldn't bring myself to like Camilla, and I didn't necessarily see her maturation process through the story...and isn't that what a coming-of-age novel is supposed to be all about?
Feb 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Liked it, although for a great while I found Camilla astoundingly "simple", as if she was 10 years old rather than fifteen. Especially after having read "When you reach me", wherein the 12-year-old protagonist has a more complex and nuanced view of human interaction and relations than Camilla does, I look back on "Camilla" as very dated, in writing style rather than the time when it takes place. It did get more interesting as Camilla broke away from her parents and began to act rather than just ...more
Sep 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
A terrible book the same way that being 15 is terrible, falling in love young is terrible, and becoming an adult instead of a child is terrible. Terrible, terrible. Many of L'Engle's books deal with child protagonist. This is a different kind of novel about the terribleness of leaving childhood behind and becoming an adult. Perhaps I make it's sound as if L'Engle hates adults. No, it is that I cannot forget as I read Camilla that it is not easy to grow up. I cannot forget the terrible sorrow of ...more
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sweet and charming. I am disappointed that my 15-year-old self didn't read this, because she would have adored it, but I still enjoyed it very much in spite of the fact that it is a young book (in maturity, not age, but that is not necessarily a fault, for a young adult novel) but just old enough in both setting and age that it feels old-fashioned without quite being old enough to be a classic novel. (In contrast to a Wrinkle in Time, which still feels timeless to me, as do most of Madeleine L'E ...more
Dec 07, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so boring. You don't feel anything at all for the characters. Okay, that's not true. Frank, the hero, always says things like "Listen, have you had lunch?" "Listen, do you like coffee?" or "Listen, you shouldn't let Luisa boss you around." This makes you feel something. Specifically, THIS GUY IS SO ANNOYING. Sorry, but this book is recommended only for people who have read the entire library. ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A vibrant, joyful book. You live and breathe with Camilla Dickinson and believe her and her friends are as real as anything. As always Madeline L’Engle wrote a superb book.
Aug 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Blurb from the back of the book: Life had always been easy for fifteen-year-old Camilla Dickinson. But now her parents, whom she had always loved and trusted, are behaving like strangers and vying for her allegiance. Camilla is torn between her love for them and her disapproval of their actions.

Then she meets Frank, her best friend’s brother, who helps her to feel that she is not alone. Can Camilla learn to accept her parents for what they are and step toward her own independence?

Reason I picke
Hannah ☆
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
At its heart Camilla deals with the absolute and total lack of control that adolescents have over their own lives, and the injustice that comes from being in a place where you have strong feelings and dreams and absolutely no say in your present situation.
Hannah Liddell
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christy Baker
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I picked up this young adult novel of Madeline L'Engle's having recently read the adult novel, Live Coal in the Sea, that has the same main character, Camilla Dickinson, as an older woman reflecting back on her life. In this novel, she's a 15 yr. old girl just beginning to learn of the mixed feelings of love and loss and the frustrations of betrayal at that in-between stage of not quite adult, no longer a child.

I appreciated that L'Engle, like all good writers of YA, don't diminish the feelings
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Madeline L'Engle tells the oddest coming-of-age stories, but they're absolutely beautiful.

Due to the writing style, there is quite a bit of cheating first person narration. However that's the writing style, and I don't think that I could imagine these books any other way. It adds something to the novel, how the character feels to others. I don't think we're supposed to take it literally. It gives a sense of atmosphere that this is how Camilla sees people. In real life do we not judge others? So
Originally posted here.

Camila was first published in 1951 and although it got reprinted, the novel wasn't really updated. The story is set before the cyber age so there are no cellphones and computers in the book. At its core, Camilla is a coming-of-age story. As Camilla's parents struggle with problems in their marriage, their daughter slowly comes to realize that she's mostly lived a sheltered life. The book focuses on how Camilla comes to her own and how she learns more about herself. Camilla
Cindy Leow
This book is a coming-of-age novel set in 1950s New York about the fifteen-year-old Camilla Dickinson who has been sheltered her whole life, and now finds herself, in the midst of parental problems, meeting fresh new people and her first romance, questioning life and growing up and being an adult. Clad in a red beret & blue winter coat, she befriends her best friend Luisa's brother, Frank, and immediately she feels like he instinctively knows her and they're able to connect deeply about the ques ...more
Mar 13, 2013 rated it liked it
The back reviews of the book stated that the book's title character can be compared to Holden Caulfield and this is why I became interested in it in the first place. Is Camilla the female Holden Caulfield? Yes and no. It is true that she is faced with issues like young Holden but hers seem so trivial compared to what Holden went through. I couldn't identify or conjure up any sympathy for her (even though my parents are also divorced) and I had trouble being interested in her affairs. The most in ...more
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook, reviewed
Ergh. By the end of Camilla, I was more than a little tired of Camilla's consistently monosyllabic answers. She's supposedly deep and fascinating, but most of the time she just says things like "oh" and "yes" and "why not?". Every male in the book is sleazy, an asshole, or both. Every female is complacent, obnoxious, or both. Sure, there are rough situations in this world and it's good to read and write about them, but did every single character have to be so damn annoying? Camilla is guiltiest ...more
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Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her young adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regener ...more

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