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.