Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $24.99
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin
Whisky Charlie Foxtrot is a beautifully written love story crafted in a unique and fascinating way.
Whisky. Charlie. Foxtrot. These are three letters of the International Phonetic Alphabet and they are the names of the two main characters. They are also cleverly the chapter headings. Each chapter is titled on order of the International Alphabet names. For example, Chapter 1 is Alpha, Chapter 2 is Bravo, Chapter 3 is Charlie etc.
This is a story about brothers - twin brothers - Whisky and Charlie, and it’s about their gradual estrangement and attempted reconciliation after Whisky is involved in serious accident.
Charlie is a wonderfully flawed character and as we progress, we soon discover that Whisky and the rest of the family are flawed and vulnerable and memorable too. Families aren't always easy, but there is a feeling of respect for one another that contributes to the attraction and power of this book.
Charlie is on a hero’s journey, re-telling his life growing up in competition with Whisky. With the dawning realisation that he’s blamed Whisky unfairly and has perhaps contributed to their estrangement more than Whisky is heartbreaking revelation.
This story travels back and forth in time as his brother lies in a coma after a tragic accident. Annabel Smith uses the coma situation to dramatic effect, paralleling Whisky's coma as some sort of karma to Charlie's emotional journey. The themes of starting over and forgiveness are subtle as is the feeling of understated hope. I was surprised at the process of treating coma patients and found rehabilitation shocking.
I have to comment about the structure of this novel. It’s unique and incredibly well thought out. I didn’t realise how well this was done until I reached the end of the book and took some time to reflect upon it. It is almost as if the structure has come first and the story was written to fit it. Changes in tense, which is usually confusing work quite well in building the tension of the story.
I found Whisky Charlie Foxtrot to be a terrific read, highly recommended for Young Adults. I couldn’t stop reading it, and I cried and cried at the ending.
Neridah McMullin is the author of four books for children. Her next book is based on a true story about an Australian Light horse called 'Taffy Waits' set in World War I in the Battle of Beersheba. Neridah loves family, footy and her cat Carlos who luckily also happens to love footy.