Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Grade: 8 to 12
- Reading age: 12 to 18
Psycho. Sick. Dangerous. Réal Dufresne's reputation precedes him. When the mangled body of his best friend, Shaun, turns up in a field just east of town, tough-as-hell Réal blames himself. But except for the nightmares, all Ré remembers is beating the living crap out of Shaun the night of his death.
Shaun's girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Evie Hawley, keeps her feelings locked up tight. But now she's pregnant, and the father of her baby is dead. And when Réal looks to her to atone for his sins, everything goes sideways. Fast.
The tighter Evie and Réal get, the faster things seem to fall apart. And falling in love might just be the card that knocks the whole house down.
About the author
- Short-listed, White Pine Award
- Short-listed, The Sunburst Award
- Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
- Commended, OLA Top Ten Best Bets
"Atmospheric…Ojibwe mythology and language add texture as the mystery surrounding what really happened to Shaun, and who—or what—is at fault, deepens."
"McDonell provides a strong sense of character for each of her players, drawing them to a crashing conclusion through a series of impactful events. The author also displays an adeptness in handling themes such as inevitability, loyalty, and guilt, making this a read that sticks in the gut…This book delivers on a stirring psychological drama fans of Carol Plum-Ucci's The Body of Christopher Creed and of the CW's Riverdale will tear through."
School Library Journal
"This novel is Orca at its most mature. The characters are living on the edge, with such raw intensity that it is painful to remember that they are still teens…As these four teens struggle with their demons, we are pulled through their living nightmares by McDonell's harrowing depiction, and hope for their sakes that they can each find their road."
"Black Chuck is a stunning work of prose—poetic and haunting, tender and gritty—this is a remarkable novel."
Andrew Smith, Michael L. Printz Honor and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award-winning author
"McDonell deftly handles a surprisingly complex narrative…Her characters are well developed and well deserving of empathy while not always likeable…Black Chuck surprises at nearly every turn; it's a powerful debut."
Quill & Quire
"A darkly atmospheric story, filled with heartfelt, yet perfectly-flawed characters. I loved it."
Ash Parsons, award-winning author of <i>The Falling Between Us</i>
"A gritty, dark mystery…McDonell captures [the characters'] diverging paths with heart and talent, exploring the secrets we keep from others and ourselves, and the decisions that determine who we are."
"Amy Mathers, National Reading Campaign"
"[A] beautiful and painful novel…McDonell's background in creative writing and poetry is evident in this excellent debut novel…[Réal] is a character I don't think I've really experienced before…He's a character who I felt bad for, cheered for, wanted to slap at times, and who I needed to see find some hope in life…A strange, brutal, heartbreaking, and strangely uplifting novel about lies, love, friendship, courage, and the struggle to overcome guilt. Recommended."
Rob Bittner, Sense and Sensibility and Stories blog
"Black Chuck is easy to get lost in, haunting, hard not to think about. This story is compelling, chillingly real and sad. Timeless, yet contemporary. A pleasure to read."
Genevieve Scott, author of <i>Catch My Drift</i>
"A book unlike anything I have read before…McDonell has developed characters who are diverse, multidimensional, and flawed, which makes them relatable…Black Chuck is an engaging and diverse book that would be a welcomed additional to any classroom or school library. Highly Recommended. "
"Superb debut novel; the pain and angst of both Ré and Evie is palpable, and the struggles they face within their respective relationships are real and nuanced…This is a brutal, heartbreaking, and yet strangely uplifting novel about the consequences of lies, the gravity of love, and the courage it takes to prevail over self-condemnation."
"Dynamically complex characterization and storytelling…brooding and absorbing."
"Intertwined with fantastic subplots, this story is raw, real, and breathtaking."
Suzanne Goulden blog
"McDonell has captured the brashness and insecurity of adolescence in this gravel-splattering joy-ride. Four teenagers attempt to discern what is real from what is not after trauma threatens to rob them all of their futures."
Karen Nesbitt, author of <i>Subject to Change</i>