Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi
Release Date: 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 215
Received: Bought
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Author's Page
Amazon Page

Goodreads page

The year is 1832 and thirteen year old Charlotte Doyle finds herself aboard a ship bound to take her from her school in England to her home in America. Charlotte is a proper young lady, bred to be dainty and prim. She is therefore horrified to find that the family who are supposed to serve as her companions on her voyage will not be accompanying her and she will instead be left alone on a ship full of coarse sailors. What ensues, however, goes beyond any of Charlotte’s wildest dreams as she finds herself caught up in mutiny, murder, and mayhem. A kindly stowaway and a truly depraved captain add depth to this swashbuckling adventure.


I first read this story when I was in late elementary school. I read it again when I was in middle school. And again when I was in high school. Then again when I was in college. And many times since then. Each time I return to Charlotte, the experience is just as good as the last.

Charlotte herself is a wonderful character. She narrates the story, and so her personality shines through every page. What we see is a strong and admirable young girl with a heart of gold. Charlotte is exactly the type of friend I would love to have: loyal, kind, hard working, tenacious, inquisitive, and with just enough spunk to make her endearingly fun.  The decision she makes in the end always has me cheering.

As a narrator, her voice is captivating, keeping tension and excitement high. The way she describes her experiences make them come alive: I feel like I’m right there next to her on board the rolling ship with the salt water spraying my face and the sea winds tossing my hair. I can smell what she smells, hear what she hears, and feel what she feels. I am fully transported into Charlotte’s world.

The plot is equally fantastic. This book is an example of a story that is well-plotted and complex enough to enthrall adult readers while still remaining accessible and interesting to younger tweens.  The pacing is fast and engaging, always causing me to fly through the pages to find out what happens next (even though, by this point, I well know what happens).  The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is simply a perfect example of good storytelling, and this quality transcends the bounds of age levels. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the future this book is referred to as a classic.

The historical fiction parts are detailed enough that you feel like you are learning something about the time period and setting, but not so detailed that you feel swamped by historical details. Likewise, the characters don’t feel awkwardly modern and out of place, but they are modern enough that readers can easily relate to them.

I have a book shelf that I refer to as “The Special Shelf,” which contains copies of my most treasured books. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle sits prominently on that shelf. The cover above is the newer cover, which I think makes the book look a lot more grown up. I wouldn’t feel embarrassed at all if some scholarly adult happened to catch me reading it. The cover to the right, however, is a little more embarrassing. It definitely looks like a book for a younger audience, while also funnily enough channeling just a hint of “romance cover” with Charlotte’s wind-tossed tresses. Despite all that, this is the cover on my well-loved edition and that girl will always be Charlotte to me.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key  


  1. That is the main thing I love in a book: one that you can reread again and again and not get tired of it.

  2. I LOVE this book. Read it twice when I was in high school. I wished there was a sequel. There's also another great Avi book called Heron, the blue Heron, or something. Loved it.

    Awesome review. =)

  3. Aylee, me too. That's the mark of a book that goes on the Special Shelf for me.

    Dazzling Mage, :D A sequel would be great, especially with the ending. I haven't read the book you mention, but I should check it out. I've loved so many of his books.

  4. Thanks for reminding me of this book. I really loved it when I read it a long time ago (with the old cover and the silly girl on the front.)

  5. Haha, she does look silly, but I can't help loving her. You're very welcome for the reminder.

  6. I read this SO long ago back in 6th grade, but now you have me dying to read it again! Thanks for reminding me of this great book :)

    Brilliant review!

  7. Good review! I was just stopping in to say thank you for coming to my blog! It meant a lot :) I am a new follower and am excited to see what you post next! Have a great day!

    -Lulu :D

  8. Wow, what a throw back! My teacher read this to my class in grade 5.

    Great review... I like seeing older books mentioned in the blogosphere. =)

  9. It's great to find books like that, isn't it? ^^ I'm going to have to do this older books meme.

  10. Melissa, You're welcome!

    Lulu, no problem, thanks for following!

    Ashley, Thanks. I like it too. There are so many I either meant to read and am then reminded of or ones that I loved.

    Moony, Oh yes, I love it when I find a book I so thoroughly and repeatedly enjoy. I hope the girl keeps up with the meme, but so far she's done it one week and then no more.

  11. Great review! I never read this book growing up and I wish I had. Seems like I really missed out! I'll have to put it on my TBR list :o)

  12. Laura, Definitely add it! I hope you enjoy :D

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