Book Review: Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel

Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary:  In Paris, family and friends gather to mourn the tragic passing of Charlie Price—young, handsome, charming, a world-traveler—who is presumed dead after an explosion. Authorities find only a bloodied jacket, ID’d as Charlie’s. At the funeral, two teens who are perfect strangers, Lena Whitney and Aubrey Boroughs, make another shocking discovery: they have both been dating Charlie, both think Charlie loved them and them alone, and there is a lot they didn’t know about their boyfriend. Over the next week, a mind-bending trip unfolds: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? The truth is out there, but soon it becomes clear that the girls are harboring secrets of their own. 

No one knows whom to trust in this thrilling tale of suspense and deception.

Let me start by saying, I'm pulling for Charlie's plan. I know that I'm supposed to be rooting for Aubrey and Lena but after listening to them so much in this story, I'm just not. I'll be that misanthrope. Holy wow that back 25% of the book! Charlie, Presumed Dead could also be aptly named How Not To Let Your First World Problems, Privilege, Pique and Arrogance Get You Into Real Third World Trouble.

I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm not even sad for Aubrey and Lena. I'm just not. And seriously, what's befallen them by the end of the book should get me there because it's messed up. Really messed up. In the beginning, I was on their side. I mean really who needs to find out at their boyfriend's funeral that he had another girlfriend. Not cool, Charlie. So it was fascinating to watch them discuss this and then realize how the Charlie each of them knew diverged so distinctly and in so many ways.
Then the idea to go find Charlie as Lena doesn't think him dead and Aubrey's on task to retrieve her incriminating confessional journal that was in Charlie's possession begins. That's what wore away my sympathy for these two.

But shortly after this is when the descent begins.

To start, they travel from Paris, to Bombay to Bangkok with each locale descending in order of safety or semblance of sanity all because Charlie lied to them.
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Then the idea to go find Charlie as Lena doesn't think him dead and Aubrey's on task to retrieve her incriminating confessional journal that was in Charlie's possession begins. That's what wore away my sympathy for these two. I listened to them go back and forth giving the other props and admiration on various qualities for the main of this book and felt that neither of them was terribly on top of, let alone, ahead of anyone, least of all Charlie based on their own actions. No matter what batshit idea Lena had, Aubrey would protest a minute and be all in the next with middling or more likely disastrous results to follow & then one or the other would go on again that the other had these strengths that current events completely discount. I'm rooting for Charlie's plan if for no other reason that he seems to be the only one on message. These chicas are scattered all over the place in mind and trans-continentally. When either of them would say a characteristic was unusual for the other I laughed because they've only known each other for about two weeks by story's end & they start saying these things within days of meeting.

Anyway, the parts of their bonding and navel gazing weren't enough to win me back to pulling for them because I just couldn't quite get past the fact that they were all in on this search for Charlie because he played them and hurt their feelings so they were going to make him pay. I still don't know what the plan was supposed to be when/if they tracked him down. Finger wagging? Withering looks? A stream of profanity to shame him? I mean seriously, what the hell could they do to hurt the guy who did this to them? The guy who set a global cabal in motion and doled out just enough and played just enough of their egos to keep them on the trail? I was never convinced they were either of them so formidable and they kept proving that the further into the story we went. Hopefully what happens by the end will make them more worthy opponents if they're going to continue with their plan.

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When at the 63% mark Aubrey laments "I'm tired of being on this rollercoaster", I was totally with her. I didn't care about Lena and Aubrey forming some tenuous friendship. Aubrey mentioned that she wasn't here for that earlier in the story & it made me laugh (good moment), I felt that way through the whole book.

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I give the writing credit that though I basically stopped rooting for Aubrey and Lena, I never stopped wanting to know what would happen to them next.

Charlie wound up being the most interesting person (Dana & Adam tie as close seconds) in the book who isn't quite in it and his POV chapters have me pining for more (I'm hoping there's a sequel to this). The ending wasn't an ending so much and is the kind of cliffhanger that sends people into fits. Surprisingly, I was cool with this one because I'm wanting to see what Charlie has up his sleeve next.

So here's to youthful cynicism & elaborate revenge schemes, things that never gets old & now I'm going to pull out my The Rules of Attraction dvd & reminisce. Charlie, wherever you are/if you are & until we meet again (hopefully in the soon too come sequel) here's to you:

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I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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