Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Review: The Book of One Hundred Truths

Thea Grumman, almost thirteen years old, has taken to lying. She told her neighbor, for example, that she didn't skate because she had an artificial leg. (Not true.) She told the school counselor, Mr. Hamilton, that she couldn't participate in gym relay races because she's Episcopalian. (Maybe true, but certainly not relevant.)

So when Thea heads off to stay with Grandma and Grandpa Grumman for a few weeks during the summer, Mom hands Thea a notebook in which she's to write 100 truths. Mom tells her, "'You never know what you might discover. You might learn something new...You might find out something new about who you are.''

Granda and Nenna Grumman's house is different this summer, however. It's packed with many grandchildren this time and Thea is not used to sharing. Moreover, she's expected to babysit, a job, she tells her grandparents and her aunts, she's not allowed to do. (Not true.) The relatives relent at first, but Thea can't help but notice she's left most days with her 7-year-old cousin, Jocelyn.

Jocelyn is one of those irritating/touching children. She makes her own bed, reads like a pro, is far too precocious for her own good, and wears white gloves as much for their aesthetic appeal as for their use in covering her eczema.

Jocelyn is sure "the aunts" are up to something and she coaxes, pleads, and begs Thea into helping her spy on them. Jocelyn is also fascinated by Thea's notebook, and the only way Thea can keep her cousin away from the book is by helping her spy.

Over the course of Thea's three-week stay, Thea writes her 100 truths, develops a fondness and an empathy for her odd cousin, and comes to terms with what was behind the lies. (No spoilers here, but let me just say that it involves an accident those of us who live in the North most fear.)

The Book of One Hundred Truths is a thought-provoking novel for the upper Middle Grade, or tween, reader. What impressed me most about this book is how its author, Julie Schumacher, portrays Thea, her narrator and protagonist. Thea is completely believable--her lies are so transparent, so troubling, yet completely motivated. Thea is an ordinary child to whom an ordinary, mundane accident occurs. She copes in the only way she knows how. Often, in Middle Grade or Young Adult fiction, the heroes are smart--smarter than their calendar age would suggest. Thea is a twelve year old and reacts like one.

The Book of One Hundred Truths is best suited for the ten-to fourteen-year-old reader and is highly recommended.