The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi
From the jacket: “The Seahawk looms against a darkening sky, black and sinister. Manned by an angry, motley crew at the mercy of a ruthless captain, the rat-infested ship reeks of squalor, despair … and mutiny! It is no place for the lone passenger, thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle, yet for her there is no turning back. At first a trapped and powerless young girl, Charlotte dares to become the center of a daring and deadly voyage that will challenge her courage, her loyalties, and her very will to survive!”
My take: As you might guess from all! the! exclamation points! on the book jacket, this book is aimed at kids. And I suspect that younger readers, particularly those old enough to have watched Pirates of the Caribbean or The Pirates! Band of Misfits, will enjoy the book quite a bit.
It’s the story of 13-year-old Charlotte, who is following her family’s return from England to Providence, Rhode Island, during the summer of 1832. Her parents deemed it best that she not interrupt her school year for the boat crossing, so she was told to remain at school and she would be escorted home on one of her father’s company’s boats by two families of similar stature. Only, when Charlotte arrives at the boat, the other families aren’t there, the very name of the ship’s captain causes porters to disappear, and no one seems particularly eager to see her. In fact, a crew member arrives at her cabin door to suggest she ought to postpone her trip and another, Zachariah, provides her with a knife to defend herself, should it be necessary.
When Charlotte’s sheltered upbringing results in her inadvertently causing the death of a man, she must find a way to atone and to put to right as many of her missteps as possible.
I suggest that a younger audience is probably the right one for this book in part because when you, as an adult, read that a young woman finds herself alone on a boat with rough sailors and that she might be in need of a knife, I suspect your mind might make a leap as to why she might need it. Author Avi does not make that leap with you. Charlotte’s life might be imperiled, but her “virtue” never is.
Younger readers also will have fewer troubles with some of the other plot points that stress the fictional aspect of historical fiction and with the rushed end to the book.
Yet despite all that, Charlotte does have some rollicking adventures. Kids who have enjoyed the Little House books will probably find Charlotte a compelling and empowering heroine. And while I was never a Treasure Island fan, this would seem to be a good companion novel for someone reading that title. Captain Jaggery is no Long John Silver, but he’s no Jack Sparrow either.
All in all a decent, quick read.