The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Not too long ago, there was a post roaming around social media about the ultimately destructive qualities of "sad MG books." I've always settled myself deeply into the everyone's-entitled-to-their-own-opinion camp when it comes to fiction. And I'd hazard to say we probably all have. But this irked me and a few of my blogging friends. Totally irked. We were positively plagued with the overwhelming irksomeness at the notion that middle-grade fiction cannot and should not exist if it isn't swelling with rainbows and giggles.
I wish I'd been able to read Maschari's book, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, back then. Because her book is the perfect example of why we need "sad books." Now, before I go on, I'm not going to call Maschari's book a "sad book" again. Yes, it has moments of gut-wrenching despair and I shed more than a few tears reading it and the story's backdrop does ultimately stem from a place of grief . . . but it is not by any means a "sad book." The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price is nothing if it's not hopeful. And how are we supposed to truly appreciate hope if we don't have some sadness to compare it to? In Maschari's book, Charlie's world suffers a massive kick to the throat after his mom dies. Everyone in his family is acting different. His classmates are acting different. The entire universe seems to have been nudged slightly off center, in fact. Then Charlie's little sister reveals a secret: she's found a pathway into a parallel world in which mom is still alive. Charlie is ecstatic and, for the first time in what feels like forever, finally feels normal again. But not for long. Charlie discovers another secret about this place . . . one which could destroy everything Charlie holds dear.
Now I know what you're thinking. "A bit heavy, ain't it?"
And here's my response: "Yes. Wonderfully so."
Middle-grade readers need heavy like this. Middle-grade readers have gone through heavy like this! Sure, middle-grade readers need books that make them smile and laugh and dance. But they also need books that'll wrap them up in a tight hug to say, "I know. I've been there, too." Because that's what gives us hope. Knowing that we're not alone. Knowing that there are others out there who have gone through that same thing and come out alive. The themes of grief and loss run deep in The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price. And I'm so glad they do. A book like this gets written from a place of experience. And it's a book like this that gets read and adored from a place of experience. It's a book like this that kids and adults are going to remember for a long time. It's a book like this that's going to give a lot of people hope.