The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

The book begins with a warning-“If strong ideas and action offend you, then read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours.” That’s fair warning, as this high seas tale does indeed possess strong ideas and action (with a fair amount of it violent).

The year is 1832, and 13-year-old Charlotte is on her way home to Providence from England. Despite the absence of her pre-arranged traveling companions and foreboding warnings from crewmembers, she sets sail on the Seahawk, for an ill-fated journey.

Caught in the middle of a mutiny, Charlotte faces cruelties, hardships, hypocrisy, and the ugly side of human nature, as well as bravery, goodness and redemption. At the beginning of the book a naive Charlotte strives for honesty and responsibility. Never having been on her own, this trip forces her to make hard, fast decisions, some, which have dire repercussions. By the end of the story she has grown accustomed to her independence, and chooses a path that fosters her self-rule. Charlotte’s evolving thoughts and actions throughout the story are golden opportunities for hearty discussions.

There are some areas for caution. As seems to be Avi’s style, he has given a realistic portrayal of life. He has not spared readers details of the murder of two sailors and the savage beating of a third, as well as other brief violent acts. Though I would not consider his narration gruesome or excessive, it still is disturbing to read such accounts. Because of this, you should resist the urge to give this to your advanced younger readers. Also, the one character that is noted to be reading the bible in the story turns out to be the most wicked and immoral, and Charlotte does lie on more than one occasion.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a dynamic read, an interesting story that will please many readers with its unpredictable plot, and thrilling voyage across the sea. But, it’s not one I can unequivocally recommend. Without giving away any spoilers I can tell you I found the ending disappointing, and for me, that’s the best part of a book.

If you choose to have your kids read this title, you’ll find plenty of literary guides, reading suggestions, and comprehension questions.

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