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.
I decided to read this book after seeing the book advertised on Twitter and I’m so glad I did. As you can imagine a book that deals with a difficult and emotive subject isn’t going to be a light read by any means. The author deals with the subject with sensitivity and doesn’t use the plot to add shock value. Sam should be enjoying the best years of his life, but instead the sixteen-year-old is trying to deal with the fact his older brother Charlie was the perpetrator of a mass school shooting, leaving fourteen people dead before killing himself. I don’t feel I’m giving any spoilers at this point as it’s all in the book description.
If I’m honest I have never really given much thought to the perpetrators family up until now, when these story’s reach the headlines I always find my sympathies lie with the deceased victims families. Dear Charlie concentrates very much on the after mass, (so there are no graphic scenes in case you were wondering). As the reader joins Charlie’s family on their journey the author explores the issues of a family left behind, a family who are judged, ridiculed and hounded by the media, a family so fragmented by events you can’t help wondering if they will ever be a “normal” family again.
You can’t help feeling empathy for Sam as he struggles to come to terms with his brothers heinous crimes, he gets little support from his family and his friends have deserted him, this is a young boy who wants to be accepted by his peers and not treated like a pariah. The authors describe Sam’s feelings and thoughts with such conviction you cannot help but become emotionally involved with his character. I was surprised that the author doesn’t give the reader answers to what drove Charlie to commit such a terrible act, but in not going into great detail about the why’s of Charlie’s crimes the author encourages the reader to see the person behind the crime, a son, a brother, and friend.
Dear Charlie is not fast paced or action filled, so I would imagine this is not a read everyone would enjoy. For me this is a novel that is very much character driven, and one that deals with emotions of very credible characters.Sometimes poignant, sometimes heartbreaking this is a book that will provoke an array of a wide range of emotions. This is a fairly short read but don’t think for one minute it lacks depth it’s very well written and despite this being billed as a YA read I think it’s a book that’s well worth reading whatever your age. I couldn’t say I enjoyed this book due to the subject matter but I did find it an emotive and a thought provoking read.
4⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️out of 5
Paperback: 287 pages
Publisher: HQ; First edition edition (20 Oct. 2016)