Thursday, October 15, 2015

What we're reading: The Truth Commission

I just finished reading The Truth Commission, by Susan Juby, and I loved it! First of all, I loved the convoluted layered messiness of the concept. It's a book about three students at a high school for artists in a small town in Canada, but the book is supposedly narrative nonfiction (i.e., a true story), written by Normandy for her junior year "special project." So it's first person narrative with footnotes, many of them addressed to her English teacher, who is also (fortunately, as it turns out!) the school counselor.

Dusk (real name Dawn, but she thinks Dusk suits her better), Neil, and Normandy go to the Green Pastures School of Art and Applied Design. Each is artistic in a different way, as are all their quirky classmates, but Normandy has always felt overshadowed by her older sister, Keira, who preceded her at the school and went on to become a famous graphic artist.

Normandy is also discomfited by the fact that her family members serve as the characters in Keira's graphic novels, and her sister has drawn them in a particularly unflattering (verging on vicious) way. For instance, Normandy's fictional name--a commentary on their parents' naming her after a French territory--is Flanders, but the character's nickname is Flounder. A flounder is a round, pale, puffy, spotted fish with its mouth constantly hanging open and a vacant look in its eye. Lovely, thanks, sis!

Anyway, the three best friends conceive of a joint project they call The Truth Commission, in which they approach people and ask them bald-faced questions about things that are "known" about them without ever really being revealed or acknowledged by that person or by all those who gossip about them. The project is an initial (though risky) success, but when Normandy starts applying the truth-telling to her own family situation, things quickly get out of hand.

The characterizations are fantastic. I wanted to be 16 again, and be enrolled in this school and hang out with these people. And even though this was a perfectly satisfying stand-alone book, I'd love a chance to go back there!

There are some fairly mature themes, so I would probably recommend this for ninth grade and up.

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