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Earth To Charlie


Earth To Charlie

Freshman year of high school is winding down for Charlie Dickens in a small Montana town. He's not exactly looking forward to it, but he'll be glad for a reprieve from the bullying he endures: for his name (his parents didn't even like Great Expectations!), for his fascination with aliens and just generally for being small, awkward and not fitting in. He only looks forward to one thing these days: the night the aliens come take him away to be with his mother. Before she disappeared to be with them, she promised that they'd be back for Charlie. Now, every night, he stares up at the stars and thinks of the glorious purpose he'll bring to his species when he's finally taken --- as well as the joy of reuniting with his mother. He spends most of his days looking up information on UFOs, trying to better target his search. His dad barely has time for him --- he's too busy being upset with Charlie for not being the kind of boy he wishes Charlie was, and he's usually drinking, anyway. 


Charlie's only real friend is Geoffrey, his overweight neighbor, and Tickles, Geoffrey's dog, who has three legs. Charlie walks him pretty often now that Geoffrey can't really take care of Tickles anymore. 


When a new kid moves to town, Charlie doesn't even bother to hope he'll befriend dorky old Charlie Dickens. Except --- Seth does. He reaches out. He makes Charlie want to make room for him in his life. He even looks for UFOs with Charlie. The more time the two of them spend together, the more Charlie believes they might really do it, they might really find the aliens and his mother. But the more time the two spend together, the more Charlie realizes there are things right here on earth he might not be ready to leave.


EARTH TO CHARLIE is a tender, gentle story about loss, friendship, growing up and reminding yourself of all the beautiful parts in the world you have yet to experience. I found myself a little uncomfortable with how Charlie views Geoffrey --- while it's believable that a teenager would be uninformed and insensitive about fatphobia and obesity, Charlie's disrespectful internal dialogue is never fully refuted, which I worry could send a misguided message to young readers. I also found myself wishing that his relationship with Seth would've been, if not fully fleshed out by the end of the novel, at least a little clearer. I also felt that, while the "twist" at the end was understandable, Charlie adapts quite quickly, and very readily relinquishes a fascination that had previously governed so much of who he was.


That said, I'm a reader who likes a bit of closure, and I know other readers are perfectly happy with more of an open ending --- especially since other storylines are wrapped up tidily. I'm grateful for this sweet, hopeful story and I think many readers will be as well!

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on April 17, 2019

Earth To Charlie
by Justin Olson