Love and war, Hannah Craven
Love, Charlie Mike
Kate De Goldi
Penguin Random House
1997 (republished 2018)
Love, Charlie Mike by Kate De Goldi explores the struggles of teenage girl Christy in early 1990s Christchurch.
Christy is a typical teenager. She lives at home with her mum (Cushla), dad (Bob), brother (Finn) and grandmother. She is constantly irritated by the things her family do, such as her grandmother’s dementia which causes her to forget things easily, and her father’s sudden love for tennis and practicing in the hallway outside her room. All she wants to do is have fun with her friends, but, once a family secret is let out, her passion becomes finding some answers. Christy – or Charlie Mike as she is affectionately known – writes to her boyfriend, Sonny, who is on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Christy knows the only way for her to find out the answers to the family secret will be to get them out of her gran, who can’t even remember what she had for breakfast. Love, Charlie Mike follows Christy as she discovers the secrets of her family’s past, while waiting on word from the war in Bosnia.
The main character, Christy, is developed well throughout the book, as are her relationships with her family and friends. Each relationship is developed in its own separate storyline, which makes it easy to decipher which relationship is being described. However, because of this writing style, the plot is not easy to follow. The writing does not flow, as the book often jumps between different plot lines and varying times. The book was written in much the same way as the popular book If I Stay, but while If I Stay spends longer developing the main story line, Love, Charlie Mike does not spend long enough on any particular plot line (the actual plot of Love, Charlie Mike and If I Stay are unrelated). This writing style sacrifices plot for characters and, while the characters are memorable and enjoyable to read about, the story is difficult to understand.
One of the most interesting things about this book to me was the setting. Set in early 1990s Christchurch, before the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, De Goldi writes about buildings and places that no longer exist. Christy sits on her front porch in (the currently red-zoned) Dallington and looks out at the beautiful Avon River. Her story revolves around these streets which, at present, have probably been demolished. This shows a different side of Christchurch, as all we hear about now is the rebuild.
All things considered, Love, Charlie Mike is not a typical YA book, due to its plot and writing style. However, there are some interesting parts of the story and the final chapter is well put together. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy De Goldi’s writing style and a story about family, rather than romance.
Hannah Craven is 16 and from Wellington.