Written by Avi
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (August 10, 2004)
With a movie in the works, which will no doubt bring this tale of mutiny on the high seas to a new generation, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle deserves a second look. I actually reread this book about once a year; it was the book that inspired me to become an author. Not only is it a Newbery honor book, but Charlotte’s tale has received accolades as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and, when it came out in 1990, it was a School Library Journal Best Book.
With the words, “Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty”, Charlotte’s tale begins. Charlotte swears to tell us the truth of her voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1832 in all its detail, and as a narrator, she does not disappoint. Set in an age where propriety was the main concern, Charlotte is the lone female passenger on a ship bound for America. To complicate matters further, the ship’s captain is losing his mind and his descent into madness is heightened in intensity by the plotting of his mutinous crew.
More than that, however, the story is about Charlotte herself. She grows from the first pages of the book from a naive girl into a young woman who questions what she knows is not right. There are few literary heroines today who demonstrate the same amount of self-awareness, candor, and moral compass that Charlotte does. She learns that, ultimately, your choices in life are what define you, not your circumstances.