Monday, May 16, 2016

The Truth Commission » Book Review

I had to pick up The Truth Commission after it got very high ratings from two of my most respected reviewers — Tatiana and Emily May. I don't always agree with these (really well known) internet critics, but when they simultaneously love a book, I sit up and take notice. I'm very glad I did in this case, because The Truth Commission was a wonderful read.

Like many people have pointed out already, Juby's book is very similar to old-school E. Lockhart (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Ruby Oliver, We Were Liars). There's a sassy narrative voice, footnotes, and symbolism.  Also — hilarity, weirdness, and a small dash of romance.  I think it can be a good thing when a new author is an obvious inheritor of another well-known author, or at the least, has a similar voice.  It brings on a wonderful sense of nostalgia. But don't get me wrong, The Truth Commission is it's own book.

For one thing, (again, as others have pointed out already) there is a character whose type and personality is very rarely, if not ever, seen in YA lit.  Other reviewers have written that this character made them flaming angry.  I have to say, I reacted with disbelief at this character's actions as well. However, I also felt a lot of pity.  It was a case where a clearly mentally ill person was made out kind of villainously.  It makes sense — mentally ill people CAN be villainous.  However, I have huge amounts of sympathy for this character, because if someone isn't in the right frame of mind, they can act erratically and harmfully.  I thought the way The Truth Commission handled the character and situation was highly unique.  What surprised me was how I ended up siding with multiple viewpoints at once.  It's the sign of a complex book.

Going along with that, the main character, Normandy, or "Norm," acted like a voice of reason and 'norm'alcy in a cast of crazy characters.  She attends an arts-based high school where her older sister, Kiera, is a famous alumna.  Norm has been living in the shadow of greatness for so long, that she underestimates her own creative spirit.  Her own sister may be a famous graphic novelist, but Norm does photorealistic embroidery and writes creative nonfiction (the book is one of her school projects).  She has two highly artistic friends — painter and movie-buff, Neil, and aspiring taxidermist, Dusk.

One thing that Juby nailed on the head is how art students are constantly 1) doing projects and 2) searching for meaning around them. It's too true! So it made perfect sense how Norm, Neil, and Dusk would start the "Truth Commission," where they ask people around their school for the truth about rumors.   But, unlike Neil and Dusk, who are eager and ravenous for the truth respectively, Norm believes that the truth should sometimes stay hidden away.  So, who's right?  Should the truth always be out there, as opposed to lies? Or does the truth hurt more often than it heals?

The Truth Commission, like a true work of art, doesn't offer easy answers to those questions, but it does provide lots of content for thought and discussion.  It wasn't a full-on masterpiece, but the novel was immensely readable, charming, and meaningful. I really liked it!

[rating stars="four-stars"]


  1. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy all the books that they've assimilated this one to. Which goes to show I suck at appreciating critically-acclaimed books. Lol.

  2. Don't despair! I, too, have issues with many critically acclaimed books, ESPECIALLY magical realism novels. I just... can't with them. But since you liked I'll Give You the Sun, I think you should give this one a shot!

  3. Hmmm....this book sounds really interesting and complicated. I was only sort of aware of it. Now I'll give it a closer look!

  4. Absolutely do! Especially if you liked I'll Give You the Sun or early E. Lockhart!

  5. Glad you took a chance with this and that it paid off!

  6. It did! I had such a good time reading it!