1991 Honor: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (A Mutinous Affair)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3/5

Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a historical novel about an ocean voyage that goes terribly wrong for one thirteen-year-old girl, who is falsely accused of murder, brought to trial and found guilty.

This fast-paced novel and twisty mystery keeps the pages turning, but the irritating main character drags the story down with her snobbish airs and quick turn-around from spoiled rich girl to repentant sailor. It was hard to suspend my disbelief at Charlotte’s characterization which seemed to arbitrarily change depending on what the plot needed.

The first part of the novel provides the most entertainment as the stage is slowly set up and all the characters are introduced when Charlotte first boards the ship. As Charlotte meets the captain and his crew, she has to quickly learn who to trust as a mutiny is about to happen. As the reader, you have no idea who to trust as well as she slowly pieces together the various allegiances of the crew, and the situation quickly gets tense as Charlotte makes some naïve decisions that get her into trouble and ends up with everyone on the ship hating her.

The second portion of the book focuses on Charlotte’s self-demotion to part of the crew as she learns how to sail a boat. For those interested in maritime sailing, Avi does a good job at creating a setting that is easy to visualize even if you are unfamiliar with ships, masts and sails. The last part of the novel also includes a trial and verdict, which was unexciting to read through, and, unfortunately, the consequences don’t quite stick.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle would most likely be enjoyable to middle school students who enjoy adventure stories that feature a heroine in a non-traditional role. This novel, though, requires the reader to suspend their disbelief for a lot of the action, which makes it a bit hard to immerse oneself into this 19th century sea-faring journey.


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