First of all, props to the marketing department for creating such a modern cover. Loved the sleek design and the size/handle of the book. They say don't judge a book by its cover, but let's face it, we all do it. It is a short book, less than 200 pages.
This book is very sad and depressing. If you're looking for a happy story to read on the beach, maybe wait on this one. But if you're in a deep place in your life and don't know how to accept the past, maybe this book will help. It doesn't follow the life of just the main character, Charlie, but of his entire family. It shows how neglect and abuse can propagate each generation. And Charlie wasn't just the victim, he also abandoned his little brother as well. It fluctuates between the current Charlie at 18, who reads very older at times, to his younger self as the worlds youngest published author. There is swearing and sex, which makes this a young adult novel. I wanted there to be a happy ending, but alas, just like in real life, there sometimes isn't a happy ending. In writing class we're always told that the main character needs to grow by the end, needs to have learned something. And I struggled with what exactly Charlie learned by the end, because he was the same whiny, un-empathetic person he was from the beginning. But after some thinking, I came to the conclusion that Charlie accepted his life and would move on. The last line: I think I got this, Mrs. M., is all you get to the new Charlie. The reader is left wondering: Why did the mother leave in the beginning? Does he talk to his dad again? and Did Charlie ever reconcile with his brother? This is exactly how life is, you don't always get all your why? to life answered.
This book was assigning for the Weekend on the Water retreat that I went to this weekend. The retreat was a part of SCBWI Western Washington. It was my first retreat, and was super excited that I went and had a great experience.
I met the editor of Beetle Boy, Andrew Karre, at the retreat. Someone asked why Clara, the girlfriend of Charlie, had dialogue in bold in the beginning, and he said to keep her as a somewhat controlling person, someone from above. But when Charlie starts to see her as being just like everyone else in his life, her dialogue turns normal. He listened to our comments (summarized above) and said that was exactly what the book was meant to make you think.