The Downside of Being Charlie

( 2 )


Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called ?Chunks? Grisner. What?s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can?t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there?s his mom. She?s disappeared?again?and his dad won?t talk about it.

Somewhere between the ...

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The Downside of Being Charlie

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Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared—again—and his dad won’t talk about it.

Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to hold his head above water in the meantime?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Charlie went to “Camp Fit” during the summer before his senior year and lost 30 pounds, but he’s still carrying a heavy load. His volatile mother has disappeared again, and Charlie learns that his father is harboring a secret. Adding to his emotional whiplash, a girl is actually interested in Charlie—dreamy Charlotte VanderKleaton—and Charlie is forced to share a locker with the weirdest girl in school, which makes him seem like a freak by association. Peppered with sardonic humor, debut author Sanchez’s confessional-style prose conveys Charlie’s distress and confusion as his family life disintegrates, he turns to binging and purging, and he navigates an uncertain relationship with Charlotte. With the support of his friend Ahmed—a charming throwback who talks like a member of the Rat Pack—and by confronting his relationships with food and his family via a photography project, Charlie begins to learn who he really is. Sanchez explores the psychological underpinnings of eating disorders while creating a complete character in the closet-brilliant but perennially tongue-tied Charlie. Ages 13–up. Agent: Kerry Sparks, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (June)
From the Publisher

Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward and 17 other novels
"The Downside of Being Charlie is what you always hope a great Young Adult novel will be: raw, heartfelt, searingly honest coming-of-age emotion in a character who feels almost as important to you as you feel to yourself. This novel exceeds expectations in that and all other regards. If this is Jenny Torres Sanchez's debut novel, this is an author to watch. A must-read for YA fans."

David Yoo, author of The Detention Club and Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before
“An honest portrayal of an earnestly confused teen boy . . . a story that is both heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.”
“I am here to tell you that The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez is a really well written, thought provoking contemporary YA novel that reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Chris Crutcher…Jenny writes with wit and insight to help you along the journey that is The Downside of Being Charlie…Like the works of Chris Crutcher and other contemporary YA authors, Charlie is a relatable and discussable read.  And like those authors, Sanchez creates realistic teen characters, which in this case includes some harsh (though authentic) language and one bullying incident that involves marijuana.  This is a great debut novel and I look forward to reading more by Sanchez; she really captured the lives of teens and wrote a story that is compelling and moving.  She used to be a high school teacher which really shows in her writing - she gets teens.

The YA market has been dominated by fantasy and paranormal romance these last few years (which I don't mind at all), but this year it seems like there is a real renaissance of the cotemporary YA novel.  The year kicked off with the wonderful The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and I believe this will be one of those contemporary novels that will be a part of the renaissance.  Fans of Chris Crutcher, Sarah Dessen and John Green will appreciate The Downside of Being Charlie. Highly recommended.

What they are saying on the Internet: "Realistically edgy and humorously dysfunctional". I agree wholeheartedly.”

Jennifer Castle, author of The Beginning of After
"Charlie is a character you love spending time with -- through his ups and downs, his comedy and tragedy, those moments where you want to give him a hug and the times you just want to slap him to his senses. He is real, and his journey is a real treat. Jenny Torres Sanchez's debut strikes a delicate, heartfelt balance of honesty and wit."

Children’s Literature
“Boys will likely identify with Charlie's self-reliance, while seeing into the mind of a boy will fascinate girls. This is a strong well-written book that takes a different perspective on a high school student's senior year. There are no pep rallies or fluffy high school events, only a boy determinedly trying to keep afloat in a world beyond high school.”

School Library Journal
"Refreshing to have a book focusing on a young man's struggle with weight and body issues."
Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System
"Sanchez captivated me from the first line and kept me engaged throughout the entire story with the authentic voices of her believable characters. …The relatable issues of identity, family conflict, and high school drama are particularly appealing to teens…Hand it to a teen reader this summer!"
Bethesda, MD Library
“The book was beautiful in that that it first held a mirror to the protagonist, then to his society as a whole, then to his family, and finally, back to himself. The plot was what really made the book in that it caught you halfway and refused to let you go.”
"Sanchez has crafted a unique and moving story that will connect with teens." book club
"Jenny Torres Sanchez has a talent for bringing a very serious issue to light in a way that teenagers can understand."

Publishers Weekly
“Peppered with sardonic humor, debut author Sanchez’s confessional-style prose conveys Charlie’s distress and confusion … Sanchez explores the psychological underpinnings of eating disorders while creating a complete  character in the closet-brilliant but perennially tongue-tied Charlie.”

Kathleen Isaacs, Booklist
"The present tense, first-persona narrative, gives a good sense of the problem-plagued boy's reactions to his life...Boys with bulimia are too rare in teen fiction and Charlie comes across as a full-bodied characer, whose depression and hope seem very real."

Frenetic Reader blog
“the admirable, funny narrator and abundance of issues make it an enjoyable read.”

Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile blog
“THIS is the type of book that I feel young people should be reading. It's gritty, raw, and yes there is even some profanity, but at the end of the day it's real….Charlie Grisner will forever remain one of my top ten favorite characters. ….I could ramble on for days about this book, and how amazing it is….This is a book that makes you think. It makes you feel. Isn't that what reading is supposed to be all about?... Loved this book. Loved it with all my heart. The Downside of Being Charlie goes on my list of books that will be well-loved, dog-eared, and passed around as often as possible. Trust me, you want to read this. It's utterly fantastic.”

In Bed with Books blog
"This terrific contemporary will appeal to a wide-range of YA readers.  The male narrator will hopefully interest guy readers in some of the "girly" topics covered by THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE.  I think Sanchez's is one of the best debuts I've read this year."

Galleysmith blog
“a good book with a message of self discovery. It was a quick and enjoyable read."

That Chick That Reads blog
“I loved this book!... This author does an excellent job battling topics like mental illness and bulimia. It’s serious but she finds a way to put it into an optimistic way. It’s not dark and I love that because that’s what gets you to move forward. In all that negativity you find hope. I honestly can’t wait to read more books from this author. This book is def must read for anyone. It sends out such a good message.”

VOYA - Victoria Vogel
Charlie Grisner is hoping to go through his senior year as unnoticed as possible. He has just returned from "fat camp" thirty pounds thinner with a new outlook on life but cannot seem to shake that fat-kid feeling. Charlie is used to flying under the radar, so being noticed for his weight loss is not a good thing—except for when he is noticed by the new girl, Charlotte Vanderkleaton, who he just so happens to have a mad crush on. Unfortunately, senior year does not start out very promisingly when he discovers that his new locker partner is none other than the most ridiculed person in his entire class, Tanya Bate, causing him to be caught in the crossfire of pranks meant for her. Another negative is the notion that his mother has gone missing again, and this time she might not come back. Despite his stresses, Charlie knows there are certain things he can always count on to lift his spirits: his photography and his hilarious best friend, Ahmed (who seems to bear a striking resemblance to comedian Aziz Ansari). Sanchez is a wonderful writer with a lot of promise. Charlie is one of those antiheroes with whom readers will fall in love. Charlie has to deal with several issues, including his mother's mental illness and a developing eating disorder, and he does so poignantly and with humor and candor. Readers will enjoy his tale and might be reminded of John Green's An Abundance Of Katherines (Dutton, 2006/Voya October 2006). Make no mistake, however, Sanchez has crafted a unique and moving story that will connect with teens. Reviewer: Victoria Vogel
Kirkus Reviews
It doesn't take readers long to wonder whether there is any upside to being Charlie. His apparently bipolar mother has taken off--again; his father, who pretends there's nothing wrong, seems to be having an affair; and he's stuck sharing a locker with Tanya Bate, the school pariah. He does have a loyal friend, Rat Pack–wannabe Ahmed, a newly svelte figure courtesy of fat camp and, perhaps, the interest of cute new girl Charlotte. But these positives barely register in his self-hating, depressive narration. And, really, his life does kind of suck. Aside from everything else, he's not the only kid pursuing Charlotte; sadistic bully Mark is also interested in her, and he takes special pleasure in grinding Charlie down. As Charlie sinks further into depression, he begins to binge and purge in a futile attempt at coping. There is much to recommend this novel--not least because it addresses male body image and eating disorders--but it just doesn't hold together. Charlotte's character development is particularly uneven; she often comes across as unendurably shallow, making Charlie's persistent attraction to her baffling. And Ahmed, Turkish-American for no apparent narrative reason beyond his mother's baklava, is utterly unbelievable, if immensely appealing. Readers who make it to the end will cheer Charlie's survival, but they'll also be glad to get out of his company. (Fiction. 14 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Charlie is a former fat kid. Food has always been a source of comfort, and something his mother provided in abundance. At the end of his junior year, he is packed off to "fat camp," where he loses 30 pounds. When his father picks him up, he learns that his mother has disappeared again. She is usually gone for no more than a couple of weeks, but this time she does not return. As weeks pass, Charlie tries to forget anything is wrong and interests a new neighbor, Charlotte, in dating him. To do so, he hides who he really is and that his life is imploding. As he stuffs down more of what he wants to say, he returns to food as a source of comfort. Instead, it becomes another aspect of self-loathing, and he starts bingeing and purging. When his mother returns, things get worse. For a class assignment that could win a scholarship in photography, Charlie tries to explain and understand his family in a series of starkly emotional portraits that help him deal with his mother's suicide attempt and their upcoming family therapy. While it is refreshing to have a book focusing on a young man's struggle with weight and body issues, this one is too simplistic. Although the novel addresses an important topic, it is unlikely to find an appreciative audience.—Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762444014
  • Publisher: Running Press Book Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/22/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,340,061
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jenny Torres Sanchez is an author and a former high school English teacher. She also writes short stories for adults rooted in her Hispanic culture. She lives in Florida with her husband and two children. Visit her blog at
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2012

    THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE was a breath of fresh air! Charlie

    THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE was a breath of fresh air! Charlie is honest and imperfect, and all the while completely inspiring. A must-read for contemporary YA fans!

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  • Posted May 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Hold onto your heartstrings & get ready for a ride. You won't be able to shake this book.

    Jenny Torres Sanchez's debut novel is fantastic. Her protagonist, Charlie Grisner, is hurting-- and his parents are too wrapped up in themselves to notice. His dad's having an affair and his mom seems trapped in mental illness. Charlie's attracted to Charlotte-- but afraid if she knows the real him, she'll run the other way. His parents are sending him the message that he's unworthy, and he's believing it. Charlie's trying to hold on to a 30 pound weight loss (achieved after his dad sent him to Fat Camp)-- but he's veered into bulimic behavior to do so. I want to take this kid home and give him a break. I can't wait to read more from Jenny Torres Sanchez, a fellow writer and teacher. The world she has created for Charlie is full of authentic characters that teens (and adults) will latch onto and cheer for (Charlie), despise (Mark), want to shake the fool out of (Charlie's dad, mom, and the love interest, Charlotte.) I LOVE the works of Chris Crutcher, Terry Trueman, and Jennifer Brown. And now I can add Jenny Torres Sanchez to my list of favorites. All of this is to say, YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

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