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Whan That Aprill With His Shoures Soote

Kim Zarins gives us a modern day take on The Canterbury Tales in Sometimes We Tell the Truth.

Whan That Aprill With His Shoures Soote

BOOK REPORT for Sometimes We Tell the Truth by Kim Zarins

Cover Story: Now Draweth Cut, Er That We Ferrer Twynne
Drinking Buddy: Wel Loved He by the Morwe a Sop in Wyn
Testosterone Level: To Lyven in Delit Was Evere His Wone, For He Was Epicurus Owene Sone
Talky Talk: In This Viage Shal Telle Tales Tweye
Bonus Factors: In Felaweshipe, and Pilgrimes Were They Alle, That Toward Caunterbury Wolden Ryde; Here Bygynneth the Book
of the Tales of Caunterbury
Bromance Status: I Saugh Nat This Yeer So Myrie a Compaignye Atones in this Herberwe as is Now.

Cover Story: Now Draweth Cut, Er That We Ferrer Twynne

The cover illustrations are the same as the pictures at the beginning of each chapter, which give a hint as to what the story will be about. I can dig it.

The Deal:

Jeff and the rest of his civics class are taking a long bus ride to Washington D.C. for a field trip. Annoyed with his rowdy charges, their teacher insists that each of his twenty-one students tell one story to pass the time, with the winner being voted on at the end of the trip.

Narrator Jeff isn't too excited about this. He recently published a story to wide aclaim, but now has bad writer's block. His criminal friend, Cannon, is waiting in D.C. to show him a good time, but Jeff is more worried about a falling out he had with his ex-best friend, Pard.

But with hours to kill, each student (and the bus driver) tell their own story.

Drinking Buddy: Wel Loved he by the Morwe a Sop in Wyn

There were quite a variety of characters here: the stoner, the rival author, the good Christian kid, the snitch, the rich kid, the likeable jock, the brainiac, the hipster, the sullen loner, etc. And each character cooresponds to someone in the original Canterbury Tales: Cookie is the Cook, Franklin is the Franklin, Frye is the Friar, etc. Unfortunately, this is a rather large cast of characters who tended to run together. The author thoughtfully provided a brief biography page at the beginning to keep everyone straight, but there were just so many of them. People would vanish for chapters, then show up to tell their tale. In real life, I buy it, but in a novel it made me wonder what the loud mouth football player or Jeff's ex-girlfriend had been doing for the past fifty pages.

Testosterone Level: To Lyven in Delit Was Evere His Wone, For He Was Epicurus Owene Sone

Some of the stories were excellent takes on pop culture phenomena: Charlotte's Web, Harry Potter, zombie movies, Twilight, etc. Some were clearly thinly-veiled stories about their own lives (see title). Others were simple revenge tales: My character slept with your character and she liked it! Well your character just shit his pants! Quite frankly, I'm surprised the teacher didn't step in at some point, but like every other character, he only showed up when it was convenient.

Talky Talk: In This Viage Shal Telle Tales Tweye

Like Chaucer's masterwork, this is a well-written book of stories within stories. And like Chaucer's tales, it seems unfinished. Not the stories themselves, which were nice and complete, but the whole part about Jeff and his classmates. There were enough subplots to fill a regular novel: Jeff and Pard, Jeff and Cannon, the teacher's seething anger about a class prank that got out of hand and that he could never prove, Jeff's dead twin sister, etc. With this many plots and this many characters, you'd be hard pressed to wrap things up in 400 pages. When you have to dedicate about half the book to self-contained stories, you're really limiting yourself.

This was a highly original idea, and even old Geoffrey himself never completed all his intended stories. But I think when attempting something like this, the author should concentrate more on the stories and leave the intense character development for stand-alone books.

Bonus Factor: In Felaweshipe, and Pilgrimes Were They Alle, That Toward Caunterbury Wolden Ryde

I've always wanted to write a road trip book but my attempts have been unsuccessful. I did enjoy the traveling nature of this book, with a couple dozen pilgrims all thrown together on the road, swapping tales and telling lies, same as they did 700 years ago.

Bonus Factor: Here Bygynneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury

This book is a good way to introduce readers to the quite hilarious Canterbury Tales without wading through the olde English. Some of those stories are really dirty.

Bromance Status: I Saugh Nat This Yeer So Myrie a Compaignye Atones in this Herberwe as is Now.

A good road trip story which might make a fun companion on a long road trip.

Full disclosure: I received neither money nor ale for writing this review.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.