a project where I reread some of my adolescent favorites, so when I saw a copy of THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE sitting in a little free library, I knew I just had to pick it up and give it a read because this was one of my favorites as a young teen.
One of my favorite literary tropes is spoiled heroines who end up undergoing a redemption arc. Charlotte Doyle is a very proper young miss, class-conscious and prone to airs. When we meet her, she is dressed to the nines and about to board a ship to return to her New Englandian family from English boarding school. She's also such a laughable prude; definitely, she is the type of girl who would be the villain in anyone else's story but her own. Ugh on wheels.
Right away, things are super sus. Men refuse to work as porter for her luggage once they find out the name of her ship and its captain. The other two families she was supposed to be traveling with have mysteriously dropped out. And she's given several warnings from the crew-- including the gift of a knife from the preacher/cook Zachariah. Perhaps most sinisterly of all is when she takes tea with the captain and he tells her to be his eyes and ears and to inform him if she ever spots a round robin:
A symbol of mutiny.
TRUE CONFESSIONS is a fantastic story of betrayal and redemption. Even though it is young adult/middle grade, it imparts lessons about social class and morality that have stuck with me for over ten years. It is truly chilling in parts and had me breathlessly turning pages late at night with a flashlight when I was a kid. Perhaps best of all, it is a tale of adventure on the high seas with a heroine who is rife with agency and is permitted to be flawed and unlikable at times, because that is what it is to be human.
If you enjoy stories about strong female protagonists, this is a must-have. It really held up, and I thought it was fun that the author included a ship diagram and a recipe for duff.
4.5 out of 5 stars