by Brittany Cavallaro
To be published by Katherine Tegen Books
on March 1, 2016
Source: eARC from publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.My take: To my great happiness, we've seen all kinds of permutations of the Holmes-Watson- Moriarty trio in YA over the past few years, from Lock & Mori, which has a guy Sherlock and a female Moriarty, to Every Breath, with a Sherlock-inspired crime solving teen couple, to this book, which features Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson.
Besides the gender switching, A Study in Charlotte was very loyal to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, except that it also did something interesting, which was to acknowledge the Doyle stories in the text and also have the main characters be descendants of the "real" Holmes and Watson. Who are fictional characters. I did some research on the Sherlock Canon and apparently there's some Watsonian (in-universe) vs. Doyalist (out-of-universe) debate but realized I was spending too much time on that and not reading this book, so I'm just going with the fact that maybe these characters are suggesting that the stories were written about real people.**
What I liked about this book: that it often referenced the original Doyle stories. (The title is a play on Doyle's novel A Study in Scarlet.) That it had a fun blend of British and American culture - both Jamie and Charlotte are British students at a boarding school in Connecticut. And I thought this setting - a boarding school filled with moth-eaten antiques and WASP culture and degenerate rich kids and striving scholarship kids and everything in between - worked well. The mystery itself was also very clever and well crafted, though my attention lagged a little in the middle.
Okay, now for my reservations. I'm not sure what a reader who is completely unfamiliar with Holmes' character would think of this book. Holmes is brilliant, yet, but also a bit ... unlikeable? He's arrogant and lacks social skills and is frequently drug addicted. So while I liked the fact that A Study in Charlotte didn't hesitate to give Charlotte all of those characteristics, I'm not sure what non-Sherlock fans will think of her. As a fan, I found her kind of prickly and alarming. But I don't need to want to be BFFs with a main character to like a book. (I also think there's a bit of a double standard about how unlikeable female characters are allowed to be, but that's for another post.) Also, while the romances in those aforementioned Sherlock-inspired YAs have been really good, I wasn't really feeling the Jamie/Charlotte romance here. But that could improve in future books.
Overall, I definitely recommend this if you're a Sherlock fan who is eagerly grabbing up all these YA adaptations. And if you're a fan of dark mysteries or British crime books and shows, you should also give it a try.
**In fact, scholars believe Sherlock was based on a real guy named Joseph Bell, so maybe Charlotte should have been descended from him? Okay ... never mind.