Right Where You Left Me

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Right Where You Left Me Book Poster Image
Teen copes with kidnapped dad in OK family drama.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A lot of Russian words and phrases with translations. Some Russian folklore.

Positive Messages

Don't do things just to please others or try to be something you're not; follow your own interests and instincts. We are loved, even if we can't see it or don't believe it. People can evolve, it just takes a lot of patience.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlotte helps her parents out when they need it. She's driven to get into college and she's artistically talented. When she makes a mistake, she accepts the consequences, and immediately regrets it when she causes pain to others. Her mother is distant and doesn't demonstrate affection. Charlotte's father travels often, but he and Charlotte are very close. Charlotte's teacher, Megan, is very encouraging and supportive.

Violence

The main story involves a political kidnapping, and family members see a video of the victim with bruises all over. Frequent mention of an older sister who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Mention that bullying and "typical jerk behavior" are daily occurrences at school. Someone mentions blood gushing from an accident when telling a story from their past. A past cyberbullying incident involved girls taking and texting pictures of a teammate in the locker room.

Sex

Some kissing without descriptions. Feelings of attraction and wanting to be with someone all the time. Mention of losing virginity in the past.

Language

Rare. "Asshat," "damn," "hell," "s--t," "d--k move," "douche," and a Russian swear word not translated.

Consumerism

A few food, drink, clothing, and car brands establish character and location. A Sanrio store with lots of Hello Kitty merchandise briefly described.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink beer at a party, except Charlotte, who doesn't want a groggy mind. Adults drink beer and wine occasionally with dinner or in celebration. Adults give 17-year-old Charlotte a glass of sparkling wine. Someone "reeked of malt liquor." Mention that people drink and smoke when they play cards. A friend reeks of pot. The reek of tobacco mentioned.

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.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byMayberry June 14, 2018

Right Where You Left Me

This shows kids how hard family relations can me. It shows them that every family can have troubles. I enjoyed this book greatly.

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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