The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction
Published on February 16, 2005
Published by Thorndike Press
Read From: 1.17.12 - 1.18.12
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!
This is a book that has an equal amount of flaws and good things, which balance each other out and make for an excellent story. Good things first: Charlotte is an entertaining narrator, and sensible for being thirteen. She doesn't start out as being entirely so, but she matures as the story goes, and it's a fun progression to follow. Captain Jaggery is a pretty believable insane captain - he has enough sanity to appear normal to the everyday person, but spend enough time around him, and you'll see his loose marbles. And Avi took time to do nautical research.
But . . . For all of his research, he still seems to think "rope" and "line" are interchangeable, and some of the events are a little fantastic to be plausible, even in a fairly secluded scenario like a privately-owned merchant ship. Charlotte is a young well-bred girl whose ambition is to be a proper young lady, and while the events on board the ship that cause her to join the crew would certainly be shocking, I don't believe for a minute that it would change her mind about propriety so drastically that she would actually join the crew - even if she were in shock and were acting rashly. It's a big leap for a girl of her breeding to take after one occurrence. It's perhaps a little more believable that the captain would allow it, if only because he is insane, and he's setting her up. But it's still a little hard to believe.
So, circumstances are not entirely possible, but not so absurd as to override the fact that this is a fun adventure - and with a female character who doesn't have The Attitude! I loved this book when I was nine, and I still do, even if my older age has made me realize the improbability of events. I think a great many people will still enjoy it regardless.