Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

1990, 1992 Avon Flare edition
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Possibly bought new for $4.50
Worn paperback

This book won several awards, in both teen and child categories, and it's easy to see why.  It's got adventure, historical/nautical details, and a heroine who transforms from docile but snobbish pre-Victorian doll to open-minded swashbuckler.  (A transformation not unlike that of Tandy in Captain Salt in Oz.)  What I found most interesting this time was the question of whom and what to trust.  Thirteen-year-old Charlotte initially sides with the captain because he reminds her of her father.  By the end, after seeing what a tyrant the captain is, she's prepared to realize that Papa isn't the wonderful man she remembers.  In contrast, she initially distrusts Zachariah because he's an old (well, fiftyish) black sailor, but he becomes her best friend.  Charlotte also questions the rules she's been raised with, and during her "trial" she emphasizes that "unusual" does not mean "unnatural." 

There's a transgender aspect to the book in that she dresses as a boy and cuts her hair, in order to work on the ship, although there's not a conscious sexual aspect to this.  The crew agree to treat her as a "brother," and there's never the sexual threat/promise of the later Jacky Faber series, where the main character does pass as a boy for months at a time.  (I've read several of the books but don't own any.)  That, along with the violence being not very explicit, makes me put this in the children's rather than YA category.  (Even the swearing is discreet.)

If I can't rate the book higher, it's that it doesn't draw me in as much as, say, Island of the Blue Dolphins.  It's a pleasant read, with some interesting undercurrents, but no more than that.

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