THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE
Returning from Britain in 1832 to her family in Rhode Island, 13-year-old Charlotte tangles with a tyrannical sea captain and his mutinous crew. In the book's first half, Charlotte paints a painfully chilling self-portrait of a girl brainwashed by her father into acceptance of male, and class, authority. But after persistently acting as Captain Jaggery's spy--long after the reader knows he's a villain--and even betraying the well-justified mutiny that's brewing, Charlotte makes a heroic turnaround in response to Jaggery's brutal lashing of Zachariah, the ship's cook as well as the wisest person (and only black man) aboard. She wins the crew's forgiveness by climbing to the royal yard (as they've dared her to do) and becomes one of them--only to find that, after such a taste of independence, home is not the safe harbor she imagined. Plucky Charlotte, whose hard-won competence as a sailor is paralleled by her moral growth, survives enough surprising reversals and suspense to rival the adventures of Jim Hawkins. Tautly plotted, vividly narrated, carefully researched: a thrilling tale deepened by its sober look at attitudes that may have been more exaggerated in the past but that still persist.