Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dating & Sex, Emotions & Feelings, Friendship, General, Horror & Ghost Stories, Love & Romance, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
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In Paris, family and friends gather to mourn the tragic passing of Charlie Price—young, handsome, charming, a world-traveler—who is presumed dead after an explosion. Authorities find only a bloodied jacket, ID’d as Charlie’s. At the funeral, two teens who are perfect strangers, Lena Whitney and Aubrey Boroughs, make another shocking discovery: they have both been dating Charlie, both think Charlie loved them and them alone, and there is a lot they didn’t know about their boyfriend. Over the next week, a mind-bending trip unfolds: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? The truth is out there, but soon it becomes clear that the girls are harboring secrets of their own. No one knows whom to trust in this thrilling tale of suspense and deception.
I could not put this one down. I read it at the gym, in the car, at a friend’s house, during a movie. I wanted to read it the whole time I was out to dinner (bookworm problems, I know.) Point being: the writing and the story grabbed me in the first few pages, and didn’t let go, even after the very last line. I finished it at close to twenty-four ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
“The girl turns toward me again, staring hard. She meets my eyes, and in that brief second I realize: I could be looking into a mirror. My messy dark hair, cut short with bangs, is the opposite of the ethereal image she projects. I wince. I hate looking at my reflection. I haven’t been able to look at myself for months now without feeling sick inside. But I can tell without having to look that my eyes are puffy like hers; my shoulders droop in the same way; my guilt and grief are in evidence all over me, just like hers.”
Lena and Aubrey, the blonde trust fund kid and the dark-haired, dutiful Midwesterner come together because of Charlie- the boy who was dating them both. Over an understandably awkward and intense drink, they discover that neither of them really knew their mutual boyfriend at all, and that he’d been lying to them both about much more than just his cheating. Despite the grief they are feeling over Charlie’s death, and the fury of meeting the “other woman,” they both want answers, and they recognize that the only way to solve the complex and contradictory puzzle of Charlie is together. It is the bond that unites the two girls, who could not be more different, as they travel through Europe and Southeast Asia in search of answers. They soon discover that following Charlie’s trail is more dangerous than they’d ever imagined, and that the secrets they are harboring may yet tear them apart.
This book was equal parts “Gone Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars.” The dark twists and turns produce a truly unpredictable story that kept me guessing and rapidly turning pages until the very end. There is mystery, suspense, so much travel I have a renewed case of wanderlust, and numerous understated yet powerful observations on love, loss, friendship and trust.
“I see the entire world differently because of you,” I say, and I mean it. “Three weeks ago, I was just, what, a random girl in Illinois who’d seen nothing and done nothing and it didn’t matter, because I was just closed up inside my bubble. And now I want to see everything and experience everything. I know I can’t have it, but at least I want it. I’d rather want what I can’t have than never know any better. You’re the cause of that. I swear to God, Lena. No matter what happens, you opened my eyes.”
Four and a half stars
for the writing that transported me around the world,
for the characters who were flawed, yet honest,
and for the multiple moments that had me all
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