The Disorganisation of Celia Stone
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Published: August 2023
The Disorganisation of Celia Stone is a wonderfully easy read, written in a diarist form. However, it tackles huge issues that women face and addresses some of life’s greatest complexities including terminal illness, grief, and mental health. Emma Young has constructed a character that is painfully relatable to most women, struggling to fledge a meaningful career while trying to maintain her health and fitness, a full social calendar and ‘the spark’ in her romantic relationship. The lists and schedules, and rigid exchanges are pitifully understandable.
A central theme in the novel is finance and money. Celia is a financial counsellor, who is passionate about financial freedom and prides herself on her frugality. Themes of injustice within our government and the brutal nature of big banks appear throughout the novel. From the financial struggles of her clients, the complete lack of funding the government provides not-for-profit financial counsellors, to the control that money has over Celia, the novel alerts us to the terrible economic outcomes that young people currently face.
The novel also challenges how we work, the typical 5-days a week, full-time work schedule in conjunction with a side hustle has been glorified in the media for years, especially for women in ‘girl boss’ culture. But Young explores how a life ruled by work can be detrimental, draining time and energy for things that make life beautiful.
Another central theme in the novel is food and body-image. Celia is obsessed with fitness and maintaining a thin figure. Young delves into the ways women are programmed to hate their bodies by impossible beauty standards and deeply ingrained fat phobia in Western society. She challenges the notion that being thin is an indicator of health by reinforcing that body size often isn’t reflective of what is happening inside your mind and body. Young challenges what it is to be ‘healthy’, especially within diet culture rooted in shrinking oneself and meticulously counting calories (in Celia’s case kilojoules).
Young perfectly depicts how optimal time management, over-achievement, and aggressive self-improvement can cross the line and become obsessive, at the expense of what makes life enjoyable. Anxiety, depression and eating disorders are all explored in the novel through a supremely loveable and relatable character. We are privy to how all these issues impact relationships, through the mental and emotional labour shed supporting someone who hasn’t yet accepted they need help at all. Reading Celia’s innermost thoughts is remarkably healing through humorous jolts of comedic relief, and is a must read for women in their 20s and beyond.