The Plot: Charlotte appears to be a typical teen. She goes to school; has a best friend, Sarah; a boyfriend, Harlin; volunteers at the free clinic; has a family who loves her.
Charlotte has a problem. Harlin thinks she has asthma, because she has attacks and carriers an inhaler. It’s not asthma; the inhaler is a prop. Sarah believes Charlotte is psychic, because she’s observed Charlotte’s odd actions and interactions with others. Charlotte isn’t psychic.
It’s not asthma; it’s not psychic power. It’s the Need. A physical need, an ache, that drives Charlotte to go into buildings, across town, walk up to strangers, and in that moment, and not until that moment, to know, suddenly, everything about that person: past and present, to look into their soul, to see their future, to tell them what they need to do to help themselves. Find a lost child. Go to the doctor. Always, the people she touches believe her and do what she says. They may be dazed, or confused, but the Need is quieted — until next time.
Next time is getting more and more frequent. The Need is getting worse, getting more demanding, taking control of Charlotte’s life. Her relationships are suffering.
What if she could control the Need? Fight it? Stop it? What if she could be normal and lead a normal life?
The Good: Are you thinking the “a” word? Let’s see, Charlotte approaches strangers in their time of need, knows all about them, sees their pain and their possible bad futures, and steers them onto the right path. Sounds simple, right? Except that the Need makes her go places, makes her take risks, so that her family thinks she is accident prone because of the bruises and broken bones while Harlin’s love is tested by Charlotte’s frequent, sudden disappearances. Even Sarah is beginning to get annoyed at Charlotte’s being late or missing lunch dates. Charlotte may be doing good but the price she’s paying is high. Annoyance at how the Need interferes with her life turns to fear when she learns more about the Need, discovering she is not the first and finding out what has happened to the others who had the Need.
Charlotte learns that there is a way to fight the Need. I’m reluctant to share what she discovers, but I’ll say this: Young’s take on angels (if, indeed, that is what Charlotte is) is refreshing and unique. Also good? Young’s treatment of choice. Charlotte may think she has a compulsion — the Need — but it turns out she has choices. Is the Need her destiny? How can the Need bring something good to other’s lives but be so damaging to her own? Is it so wrong to not want to be made to do things?
Harlin, Harlin, Harlin. I have to say, Harlin snuck up on me. At first he was just The Boyfriend, there to make Charlotte normal, there to give Charlotte a dream of a future. Harlin turns out to be so much more than just The Boyfriend, and I love that the truth of him and his character slowly made itself known.
My last words: That last chapter?!? Really!?! So. unfair. What does it mean? When is the sequel?