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Charlie and Me ISBN: 9781848126220
Lowery, Mark
Published by Piccadilly Press, 2018
Marty and Charlie are at the start of a long journey, all the way from Preston to Cornwall, and they are going on their own. Marty, who is 13, has planned the journey carefully, and has collected money for the trip, which is to be a surprise for Charlie. They are going to see the dolphin that they saw on a family holiday the year before, a dolphin that has become very important to Charlie. The only problem is that this is not a family holiday. No parents are going; they are running away. Charlie is not your usual ten year old younger brother either. He was born too soon, spent three months in hospital and ended up with a serious heart condition, asthma, something of a learning difficulty (undefined) and a wonderful, dippy, unusual personality. Marty loves him dearly. People usually respond to him positively, but some think he is thick, and he can be a challenge to be around, often expressing himself strangely with words he makes up and with no idea of danger. Marty has always looked after Charlie very well and they are extremely close, so Charlie doesn't really question why Marty has brought him on this trip. The journey that follows is very difficult with a number of problems on the way, including the police almost picking them up, a load of drunk football followers, Charlie having to hide in the loos on trains (which he happily does), lots of humour in the situations, an encounter with an 'Angry Girl on the train who turns out to be a good friend and helps out enormously, the constant fear that they will be discovered, and adventures galore. Gradually, one realises that something unusual is going on, and it is Hen (the girl) who discovers the real truth. There is no Charlie. Marty has taken this trip on his own because his brother died the year before shortly after he tried to save the dolphin by diving into the sea. Marty knows Charlie so well that he has made up their dialogue all the way through the trip, and he has made this trip in order to be able to throw Charlie's ashes into the sea where the dolphins are. He has a good reason for wanting to do this. Their family has been destroyed by Charlie's death, and he feels they must let Charlie go free just as Charlie's free spirit has recognised that the dolphins are free. Dad has begun to work all hours, Mum stays in bed all the time, and Marty himself has developed panic attacks and writes poetry to help him cope. He knows that the only way forward is to scatter the ashes and let Charlie and the rest of the family free. When he and Hen arrive at St Bernards, and find the dolphin (along with a baby) they also find Marty's parents and the police. His parents are terribly upset, of course, and he has difficulty in explaining just why he has made this journey and that they must let Charlie go. He is persuasive, though, and they finally agree, and the ashes (which he has had in his bag all along) are scattered over the swimming, gleaming leaping dolphins. I found this story almost overwhelmingly moving at the end and at some places throughout as well, but it is a superb depiction of grief and the very odd things it can do to people. Marty's poems are scattered throughout the book, and he is a poet. No doubt about it. The story is at the same time both extremely believable and completely unbelievable, but it is super with a lots of wonderful and scary adventures as well as heartrending sorrow. An important and well-written novel.
Age: 10+