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Book Reviews Young Adult Lit

A Study in Charlotte: An Updated Review

The book A Study in Charlotte next to a mug of coffee

A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro \ Goodreads \ Indiebound \ Bookshop

The last thing Jamie 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 great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

I miss my college campus rather desperately. I love campuses in general: briskly walking across a manicured quad amongst hundreds of other students doing the same, old brick buildings that look fancy on the outside with cramped classrooms full of falling-apart single desks on the inside. Late nights and trips to the local after-midnight restaurant and working with a lab partner on an assignment that neither of you have any clue how to do.

Reading A Study in Charlotte for the second time, after having first fallen in love with it in the fall of my senior year of high school, I had some of that feeling brought back to me. Yes, there’s murder. And yes, it’s a rather exquisitely done Sherlock Holmes adaptation. But I also appreciate how well it captures the sort of ‘dark academic’ vibe, where your campus is beautiful and moneyed, and your professors are smart and absentminded, and where any one of them might be spinning up a homicide on the side.

The other aspect of the book that really struck me was the prose. It’s lyrical, and harsh, and full of raw feeling paired with clever juxtapositions and metaphors. It paints a vivid picture of the setting, of each of the characters, and of their shared emotion.

At that, I’ll give you the review written by Tamara of October 2015. It was really one of my better ones, and I think the whole of it still rings true:

Before I even picked up this book, I was a little in love with the concept. I love the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I tend to readily jump into modern adaptations of those stories. Sometimes those adaptations work, and sometimes they really, really don’t. This was one that worked wonderfully.

My favorite part of A Study In Charlotte was how the characters were descendants of the original Holmes and Watson. I have found that adaptations of Sherlock Holmes never seem to truly capture the original duo, so I was glad that this book didn’t even try. Instead, in the book’s universe both Sherlock and John were very real people, and have families descended from them. Both the Holmes and Watson families are a bit odd and carry certain traits of their ancestors. I just loved that whole concept, with a bunch of Holmeses and Watsons running around and putting themselves in danger, and with the Watson and Holmes of the same age becoming friends and solving crimes. Adorable.

I also really enjoyed how it was set at a boarding school. I recently [in October of 2015] heard Rainbow Rowell speak about Carry On, and she talked about how setting novels about kids at boarding school is a great way to get rid of parents. (without killing them all) I was kind of thinking about that while reading this book, and wow was boarding school a great setting for this book. It really added to the whole mystery – students at the school are dying and it could be anyone on campus who they might be living right next too.

A Study In Charlotte did a great job with talking about tough topics. This book deals with some pretty sensitive things such as crime, addiction, sexual assault, and I think it did those topics a great deal of justice. It didn’t dumb anything down, and dealt with the victims in the situation kindly while still dealing with that situation as the dark, scary, and harmful thing it is.

Charlotte and Jamie were honestly the best Holmesian descendant main characters I could have asked for. They were so perfectly Holmes and Watson but also not at all, because Holmes and Watson are their great-great-great-grandparents and they’re their own people of course. Their whole dynamic was fantastic. I also feel for Jamie quite in a lot of different little ways. He’s a very relatable character who has a lot of very relatable problems, along with a few problems that aren’t quite so common.

In conclusion: Great retelling, great characters, gorgeous cover. If you love Sherlock Holmes stories, you won’t be disappointed!