You Want the Truth? Read Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission

BookendsTruth CommissionCindy: Can you handle the truth? Yes, says Susan Juby in her new novel, The Truth Commission (2015), about three friends in a Canadian art school who go on a quest to ask their classmates “the truth.”

Normandy Pale narrates the story in a narrative-nonfiction final project for school, complete with footnotes to her teacher. Her friends Dusk and Neil are the more enthusiastic truth-seekers, thrilled with their apparent success at launching a truth revolution. Normandy and her family are in the habit of avoiding the truth and not talking about important issues. Normandy’s older sister, Keira, is a famous author/illustrator of a graphic novel series based on their own family. Normandy has never enjoyed watching the caricature of herself act embarrassingly in the pages of the popular graphic novel, but her parents pass it off as “inspiration” and “creative license.” Keira recently dropped out of college, returned home to write in the girls’ shared closet, but won’t answer questions about what might have happened at school. As the three friends seek the truth at school, Keira begins to open up at home, at night, in the dark, in whispered conversations with Normandy. The truths she wants to share are painful to hear, but are they the truth? Normandy starts to investigate.

There’s a dash of romance, too, and even that is complicated as evidenced by Normandy’s footnote #91:

Gone with the Wind, The Hunger Games, Twilight, Bridget Jones’s Diary. And every single one of them would be better without a love triangle. Maybe I’m just prejudiced. And also a touch bitter.”

Share this with Rainbow Rowell and E. Lockhart fans. Humorous, hip, and horrifying. That’s the truth.

Mystery Month 2015Lynn: The commonly held belief is that the truth will set you free, but does it really? Is telling the truth always the best thing and is there a cost? Sometimes it is by avoiding the truth that families manage to function. Juby examines these pivotal questions and many more through Normandy’s eyes. Yet, as Normandy herself notes in one of her footnotes, she IS an unreliable narrator after all. I love this book unreservedly, from the explorations of the nature of truth to the brilliant depiction of a family struggling silently with the dynamics of a dominant personality, all laced with charming but snarky humor. As always, the witty dialogue is one of the chief joys of Juby’s writing, along with her richly developed cast of characters. Give this to thoughtful readers looking for something intelligent yet wonderfully different.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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