The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second
by Drew Ferguson
Coming of Age. 258 pp.
Being Charles James Stewart, Jr., AKA Charlie the Second, means never "fitting in." Tall, gangly and big-eared, he could be a poster boy for teenage geeks. An embarrassment to his parents (he's not too crazy about them, either), Charlie is a virtual untouchable at his high school, where humiliation is practically an extracurricular activity. Charlie has tried to fit in, but all of his efforts fail on a glorious, monumental scale. He plays soccer—mainly to escape his home life—but isn't accepted by his teammates who basically ignore him on the field. He still confuses the accelerator with the brake pedal and has failed his driving exam six times. He can't work on his college essay without writing a searing tell-all. But what's freaking Charlie out the most is that while his hormones are raging and his peers are pairing off, he remains alone with his fantasies.
But all of this is about to change when a new guy at school begins to liven things up on the soccer team—and in Charlie's life. For the first time in his seventeen years, Charlie will learn how it feels to be a star, well, at least of the field. But Charlie discovers that even cool guys have problems as he embarks on an unforgettable, risk-filled journey from which there is no turning back . . .
For starters, let me say how pleased I am that this book wasn't promoted as a YA novel just because it has a teenaged protagonist. I'd say there's far too much discussion of sexuality for them to consider doing that, but, well, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging anyone?
Anyway, I found that I really enjoyed this novel. Yes, it's told in journal format and what not, but Charlie has a rather captive voice that actually comes across as a legitimate seventeen-year-old boy. And the awkwardness . . . Pitch perfect. There wasn't a grand, sweeping plot, but the action worked with the voice to create an enjoyable and interesting narrative. And I like how it approached the element of first love in a way that was neither overly romanticized nor quashed.