Book Review: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

22522076Title: The Truth Commission
Series: Standalone
Author: Susan Juby
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
How I got it: I bought it

SYNOPSIS:

This was going to be the year Normandy Pale came into her own. The year she emerged from her older sister’s shadow—and Kiera, who became a best-selling graphic novelist before she even graduated from high school, casts a long one. But it hasn’t worked out that way, not quite. So Normandy turns to her art and writing, and the “truth commission” she and her friends have started to find out the secrets at their school. It’s a great idea, as far as it goes—until it leads straight back to Kiera, who has been hiding some pretty serious truths of her own.

Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission: A story about easy truths, hard truths, and those things best left unsaid.


REVIEW:

I read this book right after I finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue, which is the third book in The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. I was in that period in reading where I was less than impressed by a book which I thought would be mind-blowing and I wanted something different to get me back on track, and after picking up several titles, I settled with this one.

It was a good choice. It was an excellent choice, and I’m happy I stuck with this book because it made me feel things. Most notable of such emotions was a significant amount of ANGER.

This book upset me so much. The level of my upset would be comparable to what I feel when I read Courtney Summers’ books, ala All The Rage or Some Girls Are. Only, where the reason of my upset in those two aforementioned books would be glaringly obvious, in The Truth Commission, it’s more subtle. It’s the little injustices that hint on deep-rooted issues, issues the main character herself dismissed as ‘kind of bothersome, but I can live with’ (not the actual words, but you get my point). The thing is, you don’t want her to keep living with it, but it’s how things are in her world and you just have to sigh sadly and go on reading, wondering how all of the bothersome little injustices would end up playing out.

Not well, I can tell you. The story, which is told in first person perspective by our main character, Normandy Pale, begins as a light and humorous conversational type of prose. Personally speaking, Normandy is very relatable to me. Her humanity and individualism is very palpable throughout the novel, and despite the dark undercurrents of the story, rarely is it whiny or self-pitying. It’s just matter-of-fact, like Normandy has already accepted the aspects of her life which are a little unconventional and peppered with varying degrees of injustices.

Aside from the excellently downplayed writing, there is also the matter of characterization. Susan Juby managed to paint quirky characters that come alive on the page and are not overdone. Even though the narrative centers around Normandy, all the supporting characters are vibrant and believable. There is good chemistry between the friendships, both the longstanding ones and the newly-forming bonds we witness in the book. All of them are unified by The Truth Commission, which is the brainchild of Normandy and her best pals Dusk and Neil.

This story is ultimately about the truth in all it’s form; how it sets you free or makes you wish you never knew. It enforces the idea that every one of us have different truths which motivates us to do what we do and act how we act. Rarely are these truths simple, and most of the time it’s tangled and/or interconnected, or buried within a web of lies. But nevertheless, all of these truths are important, even the ones that are hard.

This book is like many things in one. It’s about family, it’s about friendship, it’s about consequences and coping and learning to stand up for yourself. It’s about how there are no easy solutions because everything is so much more than what meets the eye. The upsetting thing about this novel mostly is the fact that the truth often renders us powerless in all it’s glory, and even when we tell it like it is, not everyone would believe us. They would prefer the lie, just because it’s easier to digest. We’ve always been told that the truth will set us free, but this novel shows us that telling the truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, after all.

I’m so glad I’ve picked up this book because it’s definitely surpassed my expectations. Looking at the cover, you’d think it’s about something way lighter than what it’s really about. But instead of a cliched high-school story (which was what I was expecting) I got something very insightful, very different, and rather thought-provoking.

I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys YA, authentic characters, healthy friendships in literature, and who’s looking for something different and refreshing (if a bit upsetting) to read.

5coconuts

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Book Review: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

21853636Title: All The Rage
Series: Standalone
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
How I got it: I bought it

SYNOPSIS:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town.

No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive


REVIEW:

Sometimes, I really hate Courtney Summers.

This is the third book of hers that I read. This is the third book of hers that hurt me.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something about a Courtney Summers book that makes you feel like watching a train wreck — knowing the inevitability of awful things to come but being powerless to stop any of it. This was how I felt while reading Some Girls Are. This was how I felt while reading Cracked Up To Be.

And now with All The Rage… I can’t decide whether to say it got better, or it got worse. Courtney’s talent definitely got better, with her undeniable ability to add a touch of humanity even to her most unlikeable characters, her talent of stringing words together that prevents a reader to turn away, even when the scenes unfolding on the page are just plain horrific. I wish I was immune from this magic touch of hers, but I’m not. And once again, I have ended up being viscerally affected by a Courtney Summers novel.

There is something terribly inconvenient about being a girl. And no, it’s not about having the parts that assigned us to this gender in the first place, although that’s not a small part of it. But mostly, it’s about how girlhood and womanhood are perceived by the world at large in this day and age. It’s about rape culture and slut shaming and victim blaming — all of which run rampant in a society struggling to correct itself, but failing, for the most part, to do so.

What is it like to be a survivor of rape? What is it like to be a survivor of rape in a community that refuses to accept the reality that something so awful can happen within the confines of their perfect, white picket fenced world? I said before that being a girl and a woman is difficult, but being a teenage girl is a hundred times more so. Especially in a world that is so eager to dismiss and silence young girls, a world that refuses to take a teenage girl’s cry seriously.

This novel is about the cost of telling the truth when you’re a young girl. This novel is about how hard it is to make society see a wrong, when it is a wrong they are willing to justify. This novel is about the price it takes before someone finally recognizes the truth they’ve been running from.

All The Rage is one of those books that will leave you speechless right after you finish it. It’s one of those books that makes you pray. I’ve been praying for someone to save Romy Grey, all the while acknowledging the fact that it’s not that easy. No knight in shining armor can take away the magnitude of what happened to her, not even her mother can help. Sometimes terrible things happen to people and it begins to define them, whether they want it to or not. It doesn’t help when people around you make it harder to forget it, make it all the more difficult to forgive yourself because they make it YOUR fault instead of the perpetrator, because it’s easier to believe that someone is lying, than to believe that someone you’ve known your whole life can do something so awful… like rape a girl.

Everything’s out of her hands now. All the things coming Ava’s way they won’t be able to control, things she won’t always ask for because she’s a girl. She doesn’t even know how hard it’s going to be yet, but she will, because all girls find out.

I think it’s a good thing someone decided to write about this, because no one talks about it enough. No one talks enough about how, until now, we blame girls for the awful things that happen to them. No one talks enough about the fact that it’s hard to be a girl, so hard that many of us have come to resent our body, to wish we didn’t have all these parts at all. We are being deconstructed until we are nothing but our body parts, and it is not a good feeling. Because we are so much more than that. And this book? This book makes sure that we are reminded of it.

The only thing I can complain about is how open-ended this book is. I hate the fact that there’s no after. I hate not knowing what happened to a character I’ve grown to care so much about, because even though I’ve never been in the same situations as her, I can identify with her. Because I am a girl.

Needless to say, this book hit me hard, like all the other books of Courtney Summers that I’ve read, but somehow, a little harder than the rest. Right now, in YA, Summers continues to be the only author who’s portrayal of high school and teen girl politics remain unparalleled. I think it would be safe to say that I am willing to read every book that CS would push out in the future, because she is just that good.

I recommend this book to everyone looking for a worthwhile read. As for ratings? No question. Five coconuts.

5coconuts