Thursday, September 8, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) / Brittany Cavallaro

TITLE: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) 
AUTHOR: Brittany Cavallaro
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books

Young Adult - Mystery

The story of Holmes and Watson didn’t end with Sherlock and John… decades later, their teen descendants, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, continue the legacy they started. Brittany Cavallaro’s modern-day re-imagining of Holmes and Watson as teens attending an American boarding school takes the spirit of the original duo and updates it for a modern teen audience. Told from Jamie’s point of view, A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE plays with the original material, yet weaves in plenty of unique elements as well.

Jamie is well aware of his ancestor’s relationship with the original Holmes; in fact, the two families have a long history. He’s fascinated by Charlotte, who takes after her famous predecessor in many ways—both good and bad. Dizzyingly brilliant yet frustratingly self-destructive, she doesn’t exactly welcome Jamie into her life. But Jamie, who has apparently inherited the original Watson’s nurturing demeanor, nevertheless feels drawn to her, even if she’s not the easiest person to get along with. When a student they both have history with is murdered on campus—making them both suspects—they find that they can only trust each other.

Suspenseful, clever, and whimsical, A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE is both an thrilling mystery and an engrossing story of friendship. Jamie and Charlotte are each delightful in their own way, and it’s a lot of fun reading about the ins and outs of their budding relationship. I loved that Charlotte shared many aspects of Sherlock’s personality—infuriating and unlikable in many ways, yet charming and undeniably fascinating. She’s one of those people you can’t take your eyes off of, whose morality often feels uncertain, but who you’re sure is ultimately the good one. And she’s got demons… lots of demons. How great is it to have a young female character who’s so fabulously flawed? For once, the girl gets to be the “jerk with the heart of gold,” while the boy is the frustrated but ultimately supportive rock. The gender-swapping of this classic pattern is a great joy to read, and it’s made all the more fun by the romance that’s hinted at.

For me, reading about the character dynamic between Jamie and Charlotte was the highlight of the book, but that’s not to say the plot isn’t riveting as well. There’s murder, mayhem, and action that takes the characters on a topsy-turvy twist-turny adventure. It includes many throwbacks to classic Sherlock tales (in fact, the killer seems inspired by them). The book is definitely aware of the legacy it’s folloing, and all the references will make fans of the original Holmes very happy. And even if you haven’t read the original tales (which, why haven’t you?), the story stands alone as an entertaining YA mystery thriller.

I had a great time reading this book, and I highly recommend it!

Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE and THE LAST OF AUGUST (forthcoming in February 2017). She's also the author of the poetry collection GIRL-KING (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she's a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps.

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