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Book Review: Dear Charlie (N. D Gomes)

Publisher: Harlequin

Pages: 222

Release Date: October 20th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Death should never meet the young. But it did. Thanks to my brother, death made fourteen new friends that day. Maybe even fifteen, if you count Charlie.

At sixteen, Sam Macmillan is supposed to be thinking about girls, homework and his upcoming application to music college, not picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed.

Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong.

Review:

I won this book in a competition on Twitter so big thanks to YAHQ for the copy!

This was a fascinating book because of the subject it explores: Sam’s brother, Charlie, takes a gun ti school and lets rip. We don’t hear much about the incident, but rather the aftermath, how it ‘s affected Sam and his parents, and that was really interesting. It’s not something I’ve really thought about before to be honest. When you hear about these incidents, in America these days, your thoughts are with the victims families, not the killers. But, as this book explores, they’re people too, and even if they’ve committed terrible acts, they’re still someone’s child or brother/sister.

I felt really bad for Sam and his family. What Charlie did wasn’t their fault, however the media wanted to play it, and even though he did something awful, they were still grieving for their son and brother. I understand that people are angry and want a place to direct that, but it just felt so unfair to pile it all on this family who are suffering so much already. I liked that the book is endorsed by Amnesty International: reminding us that everyone deserves human rights, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Even if it’s difficult to remember that at times, it’s important.

The book follows Sam on his journey to recovery after the event: going to therapy, moving schools, enduring the taunts and media attention and clinging onto the hope that it will get better. And all the while he’s trying to process his feelings for his brother too. Of course he’s angry, but he’s also hurt that Charlie didn’t confide in him, feels bad that he let him down and doesn’t know if he’s allowed to feel sad at his death after what he’s done. It’s a minefield of emotions and he just doesn’t know where to start.

While I liked the issues the book presented, I just wasn’t wowed with it as a whole. I thought the friends story line was a bit predictable: he finally finds friends in a group of misfits, feels happier with them until they turn their backs on him and everything gets worse. I didn’t like the love story: Izzy struck me as a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and I don’t like the whole ‘love makes me feel better’ story line.

I still think this is a good read and the issues in it are something I’ve not read in YA before and would like to see more of. It was a bit like a We Need to Talk About Kevin for the YA audience and will definitely get you thinking.

3

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