Genre: Middle Grade
Pub. Date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: Balzar & Bray
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "A heartfelt, beautifully written novel of love, loss, and math—perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Sharon M. Draper. Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price's mom died, he feels like his world has been split into two parts. Before included stargazing and Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who's completely checked out, comically bad dinners, and grief group that's anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too. Just when Charlie thinks things can't get any worse, his sister, Imogen, starts acting erratically—missing school and making up lies about their mother. But everything changes when one day he follows her down a secret passageway in the middle of her bedroom and sees for himself. Imogen has found a parallel world where Mom is alive! There's hot cocoa and Scrabble and scavenger hunts again and everything is perfect . . . at first. But something doesn't feel right. Whenever Charlie returns to the real world, things are different, and not in a good way. And Imogen wants to spend more and more time on the other side. It's almost as if she wants to leave the real world for good. If Charlie doesn't uncover the truth, he could lose himself, the true memory of their mother, and Imogen . . . forever."
Twelve-year old Charlie's mother has died and left a huge hole in his family. His dad works long hours and barely takes care of him and his sister, Imogen. To make matters worse, Charlie's best friend, Frank, has disappeared and no one can find him. Imogen has started to acted strangely. She has stopped caring about things that she normally cares about and seems exhausted all the time. Charlie comes to find that Imogen has found a portal to an alternate world where their mother still exists. This world is perfect. There's warm dinners, Scrabble games, and of course, their mother's attention and love. At first when Charlie follows her to this parallel world, he is ecstatic, but as more time passes he realizes that he is paying a price for spending time there....but if only Charlie could get Imogen to see that before it's too late. Jennifer Maschari's debut, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, is a heartfelt middle grade read. It had me laughing one minute, crying the next, and then tugging on my heart strings.
Charlie is a typical middle school student; I think Maschari did a great job portraying the average adolsecent boy in The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price. He loves math and logic, hanging out with his friends, Mathletes...but all this changes when his mom gets sick. As a mom to a young boy, this aspect of the story literally broke my heart. I was sobbing as Charlie tries to pick up the pieces and take care of his family since his dad was working late.
Once Charlie finds the opening to this parallel world, it broke my heart all over again to see Charlie and Imogen so happy to be spending time doing their favorite things with their mother. Charlie, being a smart kid, realizes that this perhaps isn't his mom after all. Would she really want her kids to sacrifice memories or not time spent in the "real world?" Definitely not. This "Not-Mom" feeds on memories and is an Echo or a reflection of the dead. Charlie has to convince Imogen to leave this world behind before it's too late, but can he?
The concept of a parallel world where reflections of the dead live is a really unique idea in The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price. Younger middle grade readers might need some help wrapping their heads around this concept and would benefit from discussing it with an adult, but overall, I thought it was a powerful idea. I love that this book explores grief and moving on after a tragic death in the family. This is an important topic for many middle school students and I think those dealing with a death in the family would benefit from this beautifully written book as the ending leaves the reader with hope. I can't wait to see what Maschari comes up with next!