Friday, September 11, 2015

Book Review: "The Truth Commission" by Susan Juby

Will the truth really set you free? In Susan Juby's quirky and enjoyable The Truth Commission, three art students believe so, and strive to compel their fellow students to expressing the truth about the various situations they're in—but they don't realize that the truth comes at a price, and that facing your own truths may cause more difficulty than you realize.

Normandy Pale is a student at the Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. She is a tremendously talented artist and embroiderer; trouble is, she lives in the shadow of her older sister, Keira, also a graduate of Green Pastures. Keira became famous with a series of graphic novels that lampooned Normandy and their parents, but their parents don't seem to care, and only seem to indulge Keira's behavior.

One day Normandy and her two best friends, Neil and Dusk (whose real name is Dawn—gotta love it), launch what they call The Truth Commission, designed to get their fellow classmates to reveal their not-so-secret secrets. As they start questioning their peers, they find the whole process tremendously empowering, although they're not the ones telling the truth, but their efforts start an interesting domino-like effect across the school, which has both positive and negative results.

But the truth that Normandy finds herself most compelled to uncover is the truth about Keira, who left her university studies and returned home, ostensibly to write the next installment in her graphic novel series. Keira is acting more eccentric than ever, and Normandy can't quite understand why their parents won't get to the bottom of what's going on with her. And then, without warning, Keira starts to confide in Normandy about an incident that has left her shaken. Normandy faces the ultimate dilemma: as she and her friends pursue their search for other people to reveal their truths, should she try to do the same with Keira? Will anyone care if she does?

This was a warm, amusing, and utterly engaging book, populated with really intriguing characters. While so many of the issues the characters dealt with are familiar, Juby makes you care about her characters, so you want to keep reading. The book is ostensibly Normandy's junior project in school, so it's a reflection on the events that occurred and how they made her feel, along with her wry (and sometimes off-topic) observations, even some drawings here and there.

I don't know how you read a book, but this one has a lot of footnotes, mostly Normandy's observations and comments to the readers of her manuscript. When you read a book with footnotes on a Kindle, you have to click back and forth between the footnote and the text, so it took a little longer to get through the text, and sometimes the footnotes didn't advance the story that much. But in the end, it's a tiny irritation that didn't dampen my enthusiasm for this terrific book in the slightest.

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