BookPage Teen Top Pick, April 2015
I promised myself I would write this whole review of Susan Juby’s latest novel without using the word “quirky.” There’s so much more to the author of Alice, I Think than just her knack for writing about eccentric characters and borderline outlandish situations. There is plenty of both in Juby’s latest, but that’s hardly the whole story.
The Truth Commission is (supposedly) a book-length work of creative nonfiction, submitted as part of Normandy Pale’s Spring Special Project at Green Pastures, a prestigious art high school in a small Vancouver town. Normandy starts off by telling the story of how she and her two best friends prompted (or cajoled, or outright pushed) their classmates to tell the truth about themselves.
But all this compulsive truth-telling has Normandy wondering whether it’s time to tell the truth about her own family: Her older sister Keira, Green Pastures’ most notable alum, has built a wildly successful career on a series of graphic novels portraying Keira as a heroine and Normandy and her parents as grotesque losers—and, in many ways, serving as a self-fulfilling prophecy for their real life.
For Normandy, it is a frightening but essential process to force her family to confront the realities of Keira’s brand of “truth”-telling and the damage it has inflicted. Along the way, readers get a lively course in storytelling, the ethics of producing art and how (not) to write creative nonfiction, all delivered in Normandy’s hilarious, heartfelt and (yes) brilliantly quirky voice.