THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O’REILLY by Rebecca K. S. Ansari

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Charlie’s little brother, Liam, disappeared almost exactly a year ago, and Charlie is the only one who remembers him.  When he disappeared, every trace of him vanished with him–his clothes, his photographs, even the top bunk of Charlie’s bed.  Charlie’s mother also changed when Liam disappeared.  Even though she can’t remember him, she almost never gets out of bed these days.  Charlie is determined to find Liam and bring him back, because he knows it’s his fault Liam is gone.  After all, the night before Liam disappeared, Charlie fell asleep wishing he didn’t have a brother.  As Charlie and his best friend Ana search for Liam, they stumble upon a secret asylum full of disappeared children and realize that Charlie’s unusual dreams about an Irish family from the past may hold the key to freeing the trapped children–but only if they want to be released.

No mistake is too big to be forgiven in this novel about how family makes us whole.  As Charlie discovers what happened to Liam, the mystery of his disappearance gives way to a race to escape from a magical prison.  Interwoven with this suspenseful story is the theme of self-forgiveness as the characters must learn to accept themselves and their past mistakes.  Character development and plot work together beautifully to drive the story forward.  I highly recommend this book to middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy and character-driven suspense.

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