Book Title: Tell Us Something True Author: Dana Reinhardt Number of pages: 208
Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.
But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– A story about the human connection and second chances
– Marked a humour but has only sparse moments of wit
– Male protagonist is annoying AF. Half of the plot is him trying to win his girlfriend back while juggling a new Manic Pixie love interest
– The end can be seen as abrupt and unsatisfactory re: the protagonist’s overall growth
I’ll wave my Canadian flag and say “at least I tried…”
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of True Letters from a Fictional Life from Indigo.
If you’re interested in a story featuring a teenage boy who loses his girlfriend, falls into a cycle of lies, tries to mend said relationship (re: where he went wrong), all while trying to rediscover the human connection — stop reading this review right now because it’s not going to be much more positive than this.
Messy books can be gratuitously fun to read but Tell Us Something True stumbles over itself due to its lead who doesn’t reach a satisfying growth worthy of him actually knowing he’s ought to and/or has actually changed.
Prepare for imminent rage.
Set in California, there isn’t anything terribly interesting or bad that I can really say about the setting. It does enough to set a baseline for the plot to take place and keenly identifies the mix of cultures that inhabit the area without overwriting it that it detracts from the focus of this character driven story.
The support group featured a variety of individuals from all walks of life; the privileged, the less so, the diverse, and everything in between. It was a fair representation that wasn’t too heavy-handed in pushing an agenda further than cementing the link of relationships therein.
Told in first person, this story has its moments. It really does. But it’s overshadowed in action by the protagonist. It’s this weird juggle between uplifting realization and resilience in dialogue that reverts to good ol’ River Dean lying and stalking his ex-girlfriend again, and again, and again, that has me wtf-ing the whole time I read this book.
Additionally, I can’t really say that Tell Us Something True is amazingly funny/witty. I remember chuckling a few times but not to the extreme of being LOL-worthy. Actually, in retrospect, I was probably eliciting nervous laughter for the grievance endured being in his head.
Otherwise, the mentor/counselor guy has some notable quotes and is a worthy adult to look up to. That’s a voice I can get behind. Everyone else is just a big flop.
The protagonist, River, is so damn annoying; almost Holden Caulfield tier level of phoniness. And while I can’t place the entire blame on him for being annoying AF (the sub characters enable him to act as such), he lacks the self awareness and growth that ultimately makes him a reasonable hero to look up to. Sure he’s normal-chic and sits in the middle of the spectrum — which would be a great POV to sell this kind of story — but I honestly felt his character design to be problematic than anything positive.
It’s damaging to reinforce the message that people will always err on the side of “forgiving-and-forgetting”. No bud, real life relationships do not work like that and the connections you may make on the basis of lies will not get you far if the endgame is to weep and apologize for ever lying your way through a sacred anonymous group in the first place. Not only is he the doting ex-boyfriend but also can’t keep his magical penis in check for the Manic Pixie Girl; he literally stalks his ex and does shit like buy soup and other misc. items post-relationship. Love? Romance? Sketchy AF is what I’d call it.
Look, I get it: Kids/parents/everyone lies to find a community that might materially exist without. But it’s a double-edged sword that isn’t handled to the best as it could have been when this story wraps up so neatly that it diminishes the theme this book tries to promote in connections and relationships.
But maybe that’s the point (and it’s a point I can’t really jump with glee for). That second chances are given but the what-if of the future is to be seized with the newfound knowledge that has been gained.
Or that’s just a bunch of shit and this ending was really terrible…I don’t even know anymore.
Also: the missing parent syndrome exists here and it is left rather unresolved as well. Damn.
Here’s the caveat to this review: though I hated it, I can definitely understand why people would enjoy this type of second-chance contemporary story featuring a male lead. It’s not written for me–I get that–it’s just the takeaways can be rather toxic if fiction is to teach readers something.