The further I get from working on The Distance To Home, the easier I find it to read books dealing with grief. For a while, as I was still writing and revising, I didn’t want the way other people dealt with the subject to cloud my vision for my story. Anyway. I’m glad to be past that now, as I’ve had the chance to read two fantastic (and quite different) middle grade novels dealing with grief — the other being Ali Benjamin’s much-buzzed-about Sept ’15 debut, The Thing About Jellyfish.
Onto Jen Maschari‘s The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price!
Twelve-year-old Charlie Price hasn’t yet found a way to equalize the equation after his mother’s death to cancer. He’s busy with Mathletes and he has friends at school and belongs to a grief support group, but there’s an aching hole in his life at home. Mom. When his sister Imogen starts acting a bit peculiar — weirdly reminding him a bit of how his friend Frank behaved, after his grandmother’s death and right before his own mysterious disappearance — Charlie doesn’t know what to think. But everything changes when Imogen tells him something that just can’t, can’t, be true: she’s found a trap-door in her bedroom that leads to another world. This world is nearly identical to the world she and Charlie and everyone else inhabit. The one difference: Mom is still alive.
What happens to Charlie on the other side calls to mind classic books like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. There’s something off about this parallel world, but at the same time, Charlie is drawn to it because, well, there’s Mom. His mom. Eager to do all the things he’s always remembered. With him and Imogen. How can he say no to that, even if his gut tells him it’s too good to be true?
Maschari’s debut novel will have readers eagerly racing through the pages, their hearts tugged by Charlie’s love for his mother, and their minds full of worry for Charlie and Imogen. Maschari’s story is poignant without ever becoming saccharine. A powerful exploration of grief, memory, and family. I’m so excited for young readers to connect with this story in 2016!
The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jen Maschari (HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray) will be in a bookstore/library near you starting February 23, 2016.