Friday, March 25, 2016

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

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.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

“I had been careless with my life, I knew I was, but if I died tonight, I was going to be furious.”

I went into A Study in Charlotte looking to find an interesting mystery story as well as witty and entertaining characters, and… it was fulfilled, in some ways, but it also left a lot to be desired.

I’ve read a few Sherlock Holmes books for school, and although I can’t say I’m a fan of them (for some reason I find both Sherlock and Watson too annoying in their own ways) I do love most of the adaptations, from the movies with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, to BBC’s Sherlock and the American, Elemental (although I’ve heard not many people are fans of the later?). So I thought, maybe A Study in Charlotte would be like the adaptations and I’d end up loving it. Sadly, that didn’t happen and I was left a little disappointed. The mystery was predictable, and oddly put together. I felt like the author was trying to balance the main plot, which was the characters being framed for murder, with the building romance between Watson and Holmes but without fulling committing to one or the other. Simply put, it was a mess.

 I’ll admit I had been curious to see how Holmes would fare as a girl, and I had expected it would be like in Elemental with Watson, with both of them becoming friends and partners, helping each other grow not only in knowledge but in human relationships and without romance. That was not the case here, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. Mostly because Watson shows an unnatural and frankly, a little creepy obsession with Holmes, but also because I feel like the writer made Holmes a girl so there could be romance between her and Watson and, honestly I don’t understand why he couldn’t have stayed a boy. Or both being girls! Actually the whole book would have been much better if the story was narrated by Holmes’ roommate, Lena as her Watson. Lena was, unlike Jamie, a much more interesting character in the few scenes that we see her in, and she would actually add something to Holmes’ characterization.

 As for the characters, I found Holmes too similar to the original one, with a few cute moments here and there. I wish we could have seen more of that, but the story was narrated by Watson and most of what we got from him were wonderings on whether he wanted to kiss Holmes or if he was attracted to her. Sigh.

 Now, this is something that bothered me and that I feel the need to point out but I haven’t seen it in many reviews so, perhaps it was just my problem? Anyways, I still suggest you try the story for yourselves and see, but what disturbed me was to see how rape was handled here.

 We know that both Holmes and Watson are being framed for the murder of a guy named Dobson, a boy in campus that was obsessed with Holmes and who Watson beat when he said he had slept with her. Now, the reason why most people would believe Holmes could have killed him is because Dobson raped her when she was too high on oxycodone. Because she had been sent abroad for her addiction, Holmes knew that if she confessed to the rape, the authorities would also know that it happened while she was under the use of drugs and she would be expelled, leaving her family to feel sorry for herself, so she kept quiet.

Now, rape is a very serious subject and the way it was presented here could have been very powerful. A brilliant mind with a dependence to narcotics is raped and refuses to ask for help or even take matters into her own hands and punish him, vigilante-way, because she has already been a disappointment to her family for so long, she didn’t want to add another disgrace. Do you see how wrong this all is? And yet, when we learn about it, do we see Holmes coming to terms with the school, students and her family knowing about it? Do we see the stigma she has to carry because people think it’s her fault and that she “deserves” it?

No, we don’t. All we see is how upset Watson is that Dobson raped her, and how, by behaving like any normal human being would and show sympathy, he is somehow labeled as a great guy, because he didn’t blame Holmes for being raped. If that’s all it takes to be labeled a hero, our standards are pretty fucking low.

What bothers me is, it would make sense for Holmes in all her rationality to try not to process an emotional response. Combine that horrible trauma with a brain prone to logic and reason, and you could see why she would try to look at it “objectively” and not react emotionally. But we never see this conflict, Holmes is never given a chance by the author to ponder on her assault, instead all we see is how she being raped affects Watson. Because when a woman is brutally attacked, it’s all about how the guy with the creepy crush feels about it?

 I didn’t like how it was handled, not one bit. I kept hoping it would come up, but in the end the sexual assault was used as a way to put conflict between Holmes and Watson and why they can’t be together.

 In the end, A Study in Charlotte showed a lot of promise, but the romance took over the mystery part, and the way rape was handled was very insulting. I recommend it for fans of the genre, but I’m not sure of how fans of this pair will react to it.

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