Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel
Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel
Published June 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers


This book… this book irritated me. I could feel a seed of something interesting inside it, but it was ultimately a huge disappointment. Charlie, Presumed Dead is about Aubrey and Lena, two young women who discover, at his funeral, they they were both dating the same boy. Lena believes Charlie faked his death, and wants to find him so she can tell him off. Aubrey wants to find a journal of hers he’s been blackmailing her with – and hopes he’s really dead. They set off on a worldwide journey to find out what really happened to him.

The summary sounded interesting, and looked like it was a subversion of YA love triangle plots: the boy being a villain, and the two girls becoming close friends and learning to stand on their own. Charlie, Presumed Dead didn’t give me any of that. Except, maybe Charlie being a villain – he’s indisputably terrible. Aubrey and Lena are allies, it’s true, but they really spend the majority of the book lying to and keeping important secrets from each other. At one point, they have a super-meta conversation about the Bechdel Test. The gist of the conversation is that all of their interactions up to that point have been about their relationship to Charlie, so they recognize in-universe that they have not passed the Bechdel Test. Rather than be a turning point in the story, they then proceed to continue to fail the test through the rest of the story.

The narration isn’t the best. Both girls’ POVs keep harping on about their Terrible Secrets to the point where it becomes annoying. It was so overdone that I felt underwhelmed when Aubrey’s was finally revealed. I’m not sure we ever find out Lena’s? If so I don’t remember it. She often refers to herself as dangerous, but spends most of her time being pretty damn nice, if a little impulsive. I’m not sure why either was interested in Charlie; he seems like an awful sociopath.

“. . . full of sound and fury / signifying nothing.”

Macbeth Act 5: Scene 5

Charlie, Presumed Dead was pretty slow through a good part of the book, and was finally building up to what looked to be an exciting conclusion. Instead, there wasn’t any conclusion at all, just a cliffhanger that made me want to throw the book across the room. One of my least favorite things in mystery novels (or any novel) is when nothing is resolved at the end, and the reader is supposed to be interested enough to wait for the next book in the series. Just no. Author, you have to give me something. The book literally just stops in the middle of the conflict. How do I know the next book won’t be just as pointless and frustrating?

I’ve seen some GoodReads reviews that complain that the story is far-fetched, Charlie’s faked death and later plots, especially. I’d have to agree. I could have ignored this if the book was interesting enough, but it really wasn’t. I also thought it went against the alleged ‘girl-power’ thing the author was (vaguely) attempting to have Aubrey and Lena be such huge dumbasses that they fall for every. single. thing. Charlie wants them to.

Part of me wants to give Charlie, Presumed Dead one star, but I’ll hesitantly give it two. Given five or six more drafts (and an actual ending) this could have been a decent book. I won’t read any more in the series, and, unless you like being frustrated, I don’t recommend anyone else read it until the sequel is out.


2 thoughts on “Review: Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel

  1. I’ve never heard about this book so I can’t say much about your review. The plot of the book doesn’t convince me and considering the valuation that you’ve given I think I wont read it. See you!


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