Those Jeans by Rebecca K.S. Ansari
I was twelve, and those jeans—with their peg legs and five-inch zippers at the ankles barely allowing one’s foot passage through their impossibly tight cut—were essential. My parents, however, thought sixty dollars was an absurd amount to pay for an item you could easily get for thirty with a different label. But I know now that we weren’t arguing about the same thing: while they were talking dollars and cents, I was begging for a chance at belonging. In sixth grade, I was isolated, awkward, and lonely. Those jeans were a non-negotiable to a girl on the fringes of social acceptance, one who longed to be included in something more.
My parents didn’t understand that. They didn’t see how a pair of jeans could possibly be that important. And even now, as I can better understand their perspective, I can also readily summon that visceral yearning to be heard by my parents. Not for them to see my point, but to see me. Maybe my entire middle school existence didn’t depend on those jeans, but it felt like it did. They wouldn’t listen, though. Or, maybe, they couldn’t.
When I sat down to write Charlie, I started with this seed: the feeling of being painfully unheard by the adults in one’s life. (Thankfully, writing fantastical fiction lets me craft a narrative arc far more compelling than an argument over a pair of pants.) The core of Charlie’s story grew from one basic question: What if someone’s actual existence truly depended on something the adults wouldn’t hear?
Charlie’s little brother, Liam, has been missing for a year, but no one except Charlie remembers him. Charlie tells his parents over and over again, but they don’t believe him. His concern is chalked up to childish games, and, later, is a matter for a therapist. Only Charlie’s best friend, Ana, takes him at his word, even though she doesn’t remember Liam either. Their story is one of shared exasperation, steadfast loyalty, and unending dedication to each other and finding the truth.
Though I won’t tell you how it ends, I will say that Charlie’s parents never truly understand his and Ana’s journey. As I watch my own 13-year-old sons feel unheard even as I try desperately to listen, I’ve come to believe that there are some things adults simply can’t understand, no matter how hard we try. Because while we might not have forgotten what it feels like to crave acceptance, or to feel unheard, we often don’t remember what it is to feel that way for the first time; to be so filled with conviction about something, and to be dismissed, simply because you’re a kid. Feeling unheard is terrible, but it’s also inevitable—a universal, even essential, frustration of growing up. As Charlie and I both learned, listening to and believing in your own truths are the first steps on the path to finding your own way in the world.
And yes, I did save up and buy those jeans myself.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Charlie O’Reilly is an only child. Which is why it makes everyone uncomfortable when he talks abut his brother.
Liam. His eight-year-old kid brother, who, up until a year ago, slept in the bunk above Charlie, took pride in being as annoying as possible, and was the only person who could make Charlie laugh until it hurt.
Then came the morning when the bunk, and Liam, disappeared forever. No one even remembers him—not Charlie’s mother, who has been lost in her own troubles; and not Charlie’s father, who is gone frequently on business trips. The only person who believes Charlie is his best friend, Ana—even if she has no memory of Liam, she is as determined as Charlie is to figure out what happened to him.
The search seems hopeless—until Charlie receives a mysterious note, written in Liam’s handwriting. The note leads Charlie and Ana to make some profound discoveries about a magic they didn’t know existed, and they soon realize that if they’re going to save Liam, they may need to risk being forgotten themselves, forever.
Rebecca K.S. Ansari’s debut novel is a stunning contemporary fantasy about love, loss, and the power to forgive that we all have in side us—even if we sometimes forget it’s there.
THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARILE O’REILLY BLOG TOUR
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