I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Series: Charlotte Holmes #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.
Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.
You know how when you were a kid and it was Christmas time and you sent a plea to Book-Santa to bring you a book that was so good it made your ears steam? No? Was I the only one who did that? (And don’t you say Book-Santa isn’t real.)
My point is, A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro fulfills all the wishes (nearly all of them) I have when it comes to a YA novel.
The synopsis will have alerted you to the fact that though the novel is not quite a retelling of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, it does rely quite heavily on prior knowledge of these fictional beings. I mean, you can read this book even if you don’t know anything about Sherlock Holmes (if you don’t, please tell me how you have managed to avoid all mention of them; I will give you an award) but if you go in with some knowledge about Holmes and Watson, your reading experience will be richer. That is, after all, the nature of allusions. Or foundations? You get the idea.
I knew that I’d like the book from page one but it wasn’t until page 17 that I knew I’d love whatever it brought me. And why page 17? Because of this:
“Get up,” Holmes said. She didn’t offer me a hand.
There was a little crowd around us. Of course there was. I swayed a little on my feet, flushed with adrenaline, feeling nothing. “Hi,” I said stupidly, wiping at my bleeding nose.
She looked at me for a measured moment, t hen turned to face Dobson. “Oh baby, I can’t believe you fought for me,” she drawled at him. There was a smattering of laughter. He was still restrained by his friends, and I could hear him panting from where I stood. “Now that you’ve won me, I guess I’ll lay down and spread for you right here. Or do you only like your girls drugged and unconscious?”
Shouts, jeers. Dobson looked more shocked than angry; he went limp against his restrainers. I snickered; I couldn’t help it. Holmes spun, and stared me down.
“And you. You are not my boyfriend,” she said evenly, the drawl completely vanished. “Though your wall-eyed stare, your ridiculous rambling, and the way your index finger twitches when I talk says you so very much want to be. You think you’re defending my ‘honor,’ but you’re just bad as he is.” She jerked a thumb at Dobson. “I don’t need someone to fight for me. I can fight for myself.
As I bled onto my shirt in the infirmary, waiting to see if I’d be expelled and shipped back home, it was still the only thing I had banging around my head. You’re just as bad as he is, she’d said, and she’d been absolutely right.
Got that? So not only do we have a protagonist who pretty much slays all the testosterone-slinging alpha males with her words, we also have another protagonist, one of the subjects of the slaying, strong enough to admit that she is right.
Okay, let’s take a few steps back and talk about what the book is about. Jamie Watson won an unexpected scholarship to Sherringford, an exclusive boarding school in um Minnesota (maybe?) which has nothing to speak for it apart from another student who attends the school, that is, Charlotte Holmes. Now Jamie has known about Charlotte for a very long time and his fantasies have all featured the both of them working together to solve mysteries because that’s what Holmeses and Watsons do: form crime-solving partnerships.
But the reality is, Jamie has been at Sherringford for a while and is homesick, lonely, and realizes that his fantasies about solving crime with Charlotte may well remain just that: fantasies. Then the vile Dobson makes horrid remarks about Charlotte, Jamie gets involved, fights happen, Charlotte threatens Dobson and well, that would have been the end of it. But Dobson is murdered and all suspicions fall on Holmes and Watson who must now work together to solve this mystery before the body count rises and they find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The book is witty and the pace is fast. Things happen left, right, and center and you are left whirling which is a whole lot more pleasant than I am making it sound. I don’t want to get into too much about the plot itself because talking about it may lessen the experience and you, my dear reader, need to have as intense an experience reading this book as I did.
Let me talk about how interesting it is to have Holmes as a female character. After watching Elementary, I kept on wondering what it would be like to have a female Sherlock and I’m sure other books have done that–but I haven’t read them. Cavallaro gives Charlotte all the same characteristics and vices that Sherlock the original has. The fact that this iteration of Sherlock is female and a teenager at that does not seem to have any bearing on the core character of all Sherlocks and I appreciated that. Her parents do consider her fatally emotional which does have some bearing on the plot but in an interesting way.
Jamie Watson is, in my opinion, way more fascinating than the original Watson. I actually kinda loved him even though he is chockful of flaws and has issues up the wazoo. At the heart of it, he is a good person, especially with Charlotte and I liked it. I do think his anger issues will be examined to a greater degree in another volume and probably will be a venue for delicious conflict but in this first installment, Jamie’s exasperation at Charlotte is plain wonderful to read.
The romance is there but it’s not the usual mush that is YA fare. It’s…chewy. There are feels (how can there not be?) but the foundation of their connection is friendship or perhaps even rawer than that–Charlotte and Jamie care for each other because each answers the question the other is. Ew, I’m being mushy. It’s 1:30 am.
“I’ll have toast,” Holmes told the waiter, handing him her menu. “Two pieces, whole wheat. No butter, no jam.”
“No, she’ll have the silver dollar special, with her eggs sunny-side up and … bacon, instead of sausage.” I fixed her with a scathing look. “Unless there’s something else on the menu she’d rather have. That isn’t under side orders.”
She snorted. “Right, then. He’ll be having the same thing, except he wants sausage, not bacon, and please do keep on giving him decaf instead of regular. It’s a mistake on your part, but it works ot my advantage. He’s quite cranky when he doesn’t sleep.”
The waiter scribbled down our orders. “Happy fiftieth anniversary,” he muttered and moved on to the next table.
See, they get each other. Also, another thing I like about the book is that it’s funny. That’s because it’s irreverent which is what you get when you have precocious characters. Jamie’s daddy issues are also amusing because well…I’ll let you find out. But the major reason I like this book is because Brittany Cavallaro either has a thing for Fiji, is a fan of Fiji, or maybe wants to go there? I don’t know but it is mentioned in the book a lot and as a Fijian, I get irrationally happy when people mention my country because it’s tiny.
The book is complex with many layers that are revealed to get to the crux of the entire plot but it also is a lot of fun. It’s culturally sensitive and smartly written and just read the book, okay? I’ve spent about half an hour writing about so it’s good. Now my hands hurt and my throat is dry and just read the book.