Book Title: All of This is True (Standalone) Author: Lygia Day Peñaflor Number of pages: 432
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.
Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.
Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagine…
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– Honestly a YA book for YA readers (because it’s about us omg)
– Character driven story with each character having their own motives for what they do
– The “shocking twist” isn’t very shocking if you’re mildly skeptical, but the resolution to it can be somewhat fulfilling
– Multi-POV and mixed/varied media narrative format (e.g. book excerpts, interviews, texts, e-mails), journal entries
– STAN CULTURE IS WILD
– I’m curious: what kinds of things/people do you stan (or see yourself part of a fandom of?)
Stan culture is w i l d.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of All Of This Is True from the Frenzy team at Harper Collins Canada.
All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor is either a giant subtweet to the stan community or an extremely meta case study of fandom culture. (Or both?) Specifically, it begs the question: can authors and readers be friends fully knowing that [most] storytellers procure writing inspiration from every facet of their life? It’s this question that friend-group Miri, Soleil, Penny, and Jonah, have to tackle when affluent Young Adult (YA) author Fatima Ro enters their small town lives and asks them to look inward as to their truths.
I thought All of This is True delivered on its meta premise; a reflection of the highs-and-lows of fan/stan culture and the effects of how much we herald and lift the things that uniquely interests us. While this story does not contain the most shocking of plot twists (as was promised on the cover but hello skepticism), the varied story telling mediums captivated me and vibrantly highlighted each voice within the friend-group that compelled me to believe that they each had a stake in this fandom.
As with many contemporaries, there’s typically a lack of discrete “world building” in place because we tend to pull from our own imagery of the communal environments (e.g. school, bookstore, coffee shop) in shaping what we see. It’s a blessing and a curse. It works for All of This is True because I would like to think that these characters on-the-page give readers the agency to look inward to examine their fan/stan behaviors. So from that viewpoint, a widely non-descript setting makes for this story to feel most vivid to us readers.
That being said, this story felt more empty than not in terms of the world. The images weren’t that sharp visualized in my head and it just might be because of the reasons above.
If you know me, you know I fucking love varied story telling formats. In this book, we have book excerpts written by the famous author (so a book within a book!), interviews, correspondences (e.g. text messages and e-mails), and journal entries — all of which have their own merits of successes as each one was a specific POV followed. If I had to pick a favourite format, the book excerpts (which is straight-up prose) showcased the amalgam of thoughts and stories this group of friends fed to Fatima Ro, which ultimately led to the published book allegedly based on their lives. Further, you see bits and pieces from the journal and interviews reflected in the book as well.
If there’s one thing I wasn’t expecting out of this book, is that through the haze of toxic relationships and the power dynamics in any [famous] person gas-lighting their fans, there’s a strange sense of hope that underscores the message in All of This is True. Because this book ultimately doesn’t offer a cookie-cutter ending that satisfies readers equally. This book will either be happy or sad based on how we/readers feel the absolution is deserving. And for that I sincerely praise Peñaflor.
The promise of a *shocking* revelation is what let me down the most. I just wouldn’t have promised it at all if it’s going to make me put on all of my skeptical hats on high alert. It’s not shocking if you can predict it (and it is easily predictable). What I will say is that the specific reason for it is quite relevant today, if a bit glossed over in this story due to ease.
There are also some continuity issues with the dates in the e-mails and how some characters are named in Fatima Ro’s story which should not have any of the “real” characters in them. But these could be issues in the ARC I read…because my ARC started at Page 10 (which I didn’t notice until 100 pages in that I had to go to the back to read the first 10 pages LOL).
I’ll be very upfront and say that a friend-group turned stan-friend-group is the most wild thing I may have ever had the opportunity to read about BECAUSE I AM SURELY A STAN OF [redacted]. They took an inventory of the author’s bathroom. They had cult-ish meetings at the cafe re: author’s words. I mean…I can’t imagine going that far but it isn’t farfetched at all. The kool aid is steeped strong here.
However, something has to be said about how unsympathetic these characters are to each others struggles; ultimately adding to the toxicity and how it translates into the narrative arc of their voices throughout the story. I’m coughing it up to a lack of awareness, maybe, but maaaaan some of these character’s words/actions just didn’t jive with me. Devils advocate: I’m probably not supposed to like them but should sympathize with how they acted given their circumstances…but also no, some of them do some wild shit. I am glad that they all have their own agenda though, and they aren’t all doormats to each other’s personal gains. So that’s something.
All of This Is True is a story that almost reads like non-fiction at times due to its focus on a particular obsession (this being a YA novel and its author). That alone begs audiences of YA books to consider being this book up BECAUSE IT IS ABOUT US, Y’ALL. But there are still various concerns I have with this book and its delivery that left me feeling unsatisfied.
I’m curious: what kinds of things/people do you stan (or see yourself part of a fandom of?)