Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly

Ansari, Rebecca K.S. The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly
March 5th 2019 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

For the last year, Charlie has maintained that he used to have a younger brother named Liam, but he disappeared one night and no one in his family ever remembered him. All of his things were just gone. Charlie's best friend Ana supports him, even if she doesn't completely believe him, and Charlie needs this support because for the last year his mother has been so depressed that she doesn't even care for him properly. As the anniversary of the disappearance approaches, Charlie is determined to find out what happened, and gets a tip to check with Jonathon, a teen coach for his baseball team. Jonathon confirms that Charlie could be right-- he himself was once gone, but chose to return. The problem is that Liam has wished that he was never born, and his wish was granted. Johnathon was in a similar position (he injured his brother badly, but one he disappeared, so did the brother's injuries), and not just creeps on his family, since they no longer recognize him. He knows a way that Charlie can get Liam back, but it will be difficult. Charlie is also having vivid dreams about an Irish immigrant family who came to the US to escape the Irish Potato Famine. When Ana, Jonathon and Charlie go to an old, burnt out asylum where Liam is purportedly being held, these elements coalesce, many secrets are revealed, and Charlie has to find a way to make his family whole again.
Strengths: This had some creepy moments-- one character in the asylum in particular is quite scary, but I don't want to ruin the surprise. There are a lot of interesting threads that are woven together nicely, and even though some are a bit predictable, the results are often surprising and coalesce in a way middle grade readers can understand. Loads of heartfelt descriptions of parental and sibling love, unconditional forgiveness, and other emotions that most people think are great. I can see this being a class read aloud, with lots of good discussion.
Weaknesses: Not a great cover, and the themes of love and forgiveness overshadow the creepy aspects. I need more creepy books, but I'm just not sure about this one.
What I really think:  I see this being checked out and then returned for not being creepy soon enough. The first few pages are everything for middle grade readers, and the haunted house on the cover but the first chapter of parental depression feels like a bait-and-switch.

Personal note: It's bad enough that middle grade parents in novels frequently become so grief stricken over a death of a child that they become incompetent-- now we have a parent who doesn't even remember the loss of a child and can't go on. This is beyond insulting. Maybe authors are trying to give students the message that they need to be careful with their lives so they don't destroy their parents and I should be grateful, but it's just hard to feel that way. At the very least, if we have depressed parents, can we get them some therapy?

No comments:

Post a Comment