Title: The Downside of Being Charlie
Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Pages: Paperback; 268
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Language
HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Everyone. Seriously. EVERYONE. Especially readers who enjoy contemporary reads.
Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared—again—and his dad won’t talk about it.
Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to hold his head above water in the meantime?
I wish I knew how to start this review more effectively, but the one word that keeps weighing on my mind is simply this: heavy. I went into The Downside of Being Charlie expecting to laugh. Maybe giggle a bit over Charlie's confused adolescent life. What I didn't expect, however, was to fall into a period of deep thought. To cry. Or for that matter, to find inspirational quotes that stuck with me even hours later. It's not everyday that a book somehow manages to make me laugh and cry in equal measures. In fact, The Downside of Being Charlie is the first to do that in a long time.
What is between these pages may be fiction, but in a sense it is also reality. THIS is the type of book that I feel young people should be reading. It's gritty, raw, and yes there is even some profanity, but at the end of the day it's real. Jenny Torres Sanchez speaks out to readers using Charlie as a catalyst. She shows the raw, hidden lives that a lot of people live. Putting up a front so that they seem okay to the outside world. Best of all, she doesn't speak down to her readers. She let's us know that sometimes life sucks, but it's what you choose to do moving forward that matters.
I'm certain that Charlie Grisner will forever remain one of my top ten favorite characters. It's tough for me to connect with male point of view normally, but Charlie was just too lovable and real for words. His life isn't perfect. His family is broken. What's worse though is that there doesn't seem to be anything he can do about it. So, he laughs, puts up a wall, and moves on. Lucky for Charlie there just so happens to be some amazing people in his life, even if he doesn't always appreciate them. My favorite by far was his best friend Ahmed. A kid who loves the Rat Pack, wears wing tips, and still manages to be there for his best friend no matter what? That's my kind of character!
I could ramble on for days about this book, and how amazing it is. Unfortunately I know I'd loose your attention. So I'll end with one last thought. This is a book that makes you think. It makes you feel. Isn't that what reading is supposed to be all about? Jenny Torres Sanchez has written a heartfelt story, and a character who could very well be the person you sit next to on the bus. Or your best friend. He's just a lost kid, looking for a hand to hold, and trying to be okay.
Loved this book. Loved it with all my heart. The Downside of Being Charlie goes on my list of books that will be well-loved, dog-eared, and passed around as often as possible. Trust me, you want to read this. It's utterly fantastic. I'll leave you with a favorite quote of mine, courtesy of Charlie himself:
"All we have to do is come out of the boxes we build around ourselves because the truth is we're the ones who close ourselves up, hide ourselves in our own tiny compartments, leaving no room for anyone else."
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.