Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, paperback novel, 263 pages, published by Nero in 2015.
Charlie Price is missing and presumed dead after the plane he was flying explodes mid-air. Aubrey and Lena meet at Charlie’s memorial service, discovering that they were both dating him. Neither one knew about the other one, and as they get to know each other, they find that Charlie was very different with each of them. Lena is suspicious of Charlie’s accident. She convinces Aubrey to go with her to search out the truth about Charlie. Both Lena and Aubrey harbour secrets as they set off on their quest for the truth, can they learn to trust each other before it’s too late?
The first time I started this book, I only got a couple of chapters in. It didn’t immediately pull me in, nor did any of the characters speak to me. When I picked it up again I pushed on, and within a few more chapters, I was hooked. So while the start was a little slow, the pace did improve. I read the remainder of the book quite rapidly and I’m glad I gave it another go.
Charlie, Presumed Dead is a psychological thriller for young adults. I did not expect it to be as dark as it was. There was some coarse language and low level violence, but it was Charlie’s callous and detached actions that disturbed me. He is a psychopath, manipulating and lying for his own benefit with no remorse or guilt for those that he injures along the way.
None of the characters were really likeable. I thought I could like Aubrey, with her naivety, but she had deeper and darker layers too. Lena was a spoilt rich girl with not enough parental supervision to mould her into a responsible adult. She is over privileged and throws her money around like it means nothing, jet-setting all over without a second thought. She is quite different to Aubrey, and Charlie presented an appropriate side to each. A quiet intellectual gamer with the reserved Aubrey, while being an eager clubber and drug user with the more gregarious Lena.
The story was told primarily through alternating chapters by each girl in the first person. This sometimes caused the story to jump around a little, as the same part of the story was retold from the other girl’s perspective. I didn’t mind this method of narration, and I liked that each of them got to convey some of their memories from before they met. There were some chapters written from Charlie’s perspective, but these felt a little wrong. They did succeed in conveying Charlie’s fragile and declining mental state, I just didn’t like the writing style employed in these sections.
The book ended rather abruptly, and the final chapters were chilling. The fate of the girls could be imagined, but I do hope that there will be a sequel.
Charlie, Presumed Dead is suitable for middle to upper high school students and adults.