There are plenty of fictional approaches to school shootings and massacres, and quite a few of them are really good.What makes Dear Charlie an interesting read is the fact it is written from a different perspective. Instead of the voice of the victims or the survivors, it’s the voice of the killer’s family.
In general they tend to be absolutely slated and portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative light by the media, the world and the people around them. In the majority of cases they are just as shocked by the actions of their children, siblings, grandchildren or family members, as every other person. Tragically they are also often the first victims in these kind of situations.
Sam has gone from being the younger brother of the artistic and supposedly happy Charlie, to the brother of a killer. His mother and father are now the parents of a killer. People look to them for answers and they also blame all three of them.
Pair those emotions, projected on them by others, with their own feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame, and it’s no wonder they all begin to fall apart. To top it all off both Sam and his mother have to contend with the reactions of the people they interact with on a daily basis. Sam suffers terribly at the hands of his cruel peers.
In a way you can almost see how someone could be pushed to breaking point, although it does take a specific combination of events, triggers, characteristics and perhaps even mental health issues for a mass-killer to emerge and act upon their dark fantasies.
I enjoyed the way Gomes shows the disintegration and isolation of the family unit, the difficulty Sam experiences and his search for answers, all in equal measure. The reader experiences the confusion and the constant question of why, and of course the realisation that sometimes you don’t get the answers you need or want.
It was almost a perfect read except for a slight deviation into an en vogue YA narrative towards the end. Up to that point Gomes keeps it brutally realistic and void of any superfluous information, scenes and emotions. It is a really good read.