A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Right Where You Left Me, by Calla Devlin (Tell Me Something Real), is about 17-year-old Charlotte coping when her father is kidnapped by Ukrainian rebels. Charlotte often fears the worst and imagines what he must be enduring. Her family also lost an older sister to SIDS, and how that continues to affect the family is a strong theme. Other violence includes seeing a video of the father covered in bruises, mention that bullying happens every day at school, and a past cyberbullying incident. There's some romance and a few kisses that aren't described, and brief mention of losing virginity in the past. Teens drink beer at a party and adults give Charlotte a glass of sparkling wine once. Strong language is rare but includes "s--t" and "d--k move," once each.
What's the story?
When she drops her journalist dad off at the airport, 17-year-old Charlotte promises him she'll be RIGHT WHERE YOU LEFT ME to pick him up when he comes home from covering an earthquake in the Ukraine. The usual worries about her dad when he's gone quickly become Charlotte's worst nightmare when they learn that he's been kidnapped by Ukrainian rebels demanding a ransom. And she finds little comfort from her emotionally distant mother. Fortunately Charlotte does get a lot of support from friends, a teacher, and longtime crush Josh, who finally seems to have noticed Charlotte. When it looks like neither the government nor the newspaper her father works for are doing anything to secure his release, Charlotte and her friends hatch their own plan to make something happen, finally. But the plan has consequences Charlotte never imagined, and now it looks like she and her friends have only made matters worse.
Is it any good?
Author Calla Devlin's second novel about coping with a parent's kidnapping should be a lot more of a compelling page-turner than it is. Right Where You Left Me stays too emotionally flat to take the reader on what should be an emotional rollercoaster ride. Narrator Charlotte is easy to relate to, but not very easy to connect with emotionally. Secondary characters who aren't very well developed don't add much to the story.
The resolutions of both Charlotte's relationship with her mother and her father's kidnapping have a magic-wand feeling; we don't get to actually experience the changes or how they came about. That being said, thoughtful teens who enjoy family drama will find a lot of food for thought about mother-daughter dynamics, how events continue to affect families for years, and how we shouldn't assume we know what others are thinking and feeling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the cyberbullying incident Josh mentions in Right Where You Left Me. Has cyberbullying affected you or someone you know? What can you or should you do about it?
Does Charlotte and Josh's romance seem realistic to you? Why, or why not?
Have you ever had to cope with a family crisis? What did you do? If not, how do you think you'd react if you were Charlotte?
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