Cover of The Truth Commission by Susan Juby. Three faceless teens face the viewer

About the Book

Title: The Truth Commission
Published: 2015

Cover Story: 404 Error
Drinking Buddy: PBR On Me
Testosterone Level: It Comes and Goes
Talky Talk: Allow Me to Congratulate Myself
Bonus Factors: School for Fine Arts, *
Bromance Status: That Student Who Tries to Facebook Friend Me

Cover Story: 404 Error

While the eyeless and noseless faces are original, this cover reminds me of the default graphic on my webpage when an image won’t load.

The Deal:

Canadian sixteen-year-old Normandy ‘Norm’ Pale has a pretty good life. She goes to a fine arts school. Her two best friends, Neil and Dusk (real name: Dawn) are about the hippest people you can imagine. I mean, instead of wearing expensive shoes, they wear old, gross shoes! It’s like they’re deliberately trying to not be cool, which almost makes them cool! How about that?

Anyway, they get it in their heads to start confronting the students (and staff) at their school about the truth. Instead of beating around the bush, they flat out ask people about their dark little secrets: plastic surgery, drug issues, sexual orientation, and family problems. And everyone responds with glee, joyful to be able to finally be open about that which was hidden. I’m not being sarcastic. They seriously do.

However, all is not well with Normandy. Her sister, Keira, has published a graphic novel that has blown the doors off anything Norm can hope to create. We’re talking six-figure advances and movie deals. And the best part is, the characters in this fantasy world are totally based on Norm’s family. Kind of. Her father, who recently had an affair, is shown as a lecherous fool. Her mother is portrayed as a devious bitch. And the Normandy character–Flanders–is a fat, ugly, talentless, helpless, fish-faced lump of a girl.

Normandy’s parents are thrilled with Keira’s success, blowing off any similarities to their family as artistic license. Norm, however, is less than ecstatic about her new alter ego. Her friends know better than to mention it, but Norm’s kind of dying inside about this. But she’s just being petty, right? And now her sister has moved back home.

God, what is the truth, anyway?

Drinking Buddy: PBR On Me

Two pints of beer cheersing

Seriously. I think that the first time I enjoyed something from pop culture non-ironically, these guys would crucify me. Like Dusk did to Norm when she was having a family crisis and wasn’t interested in confronting some girl about her false claims of First Nation heritage.

I get it. You’re hip. You don’t have to remind me every other page.

Testosterone Level: It Comes and Goes

There was not a lot of sex or action in this book. In fact, there was none. Still, it was interesting to see what happens when romantic feelings crop up in one third of a close knit trio. Will the feelings be reciprocated? And how will the odd person out react?

Also, there’s something very wrong with Norm’s sister, Keira. Once a top-ranked author, she suddenly drops out of college, moves back home, and spends her days hiding in her bedroom closet, writing. What happened to her? Will she share it with Norm?

Talky Talk: Allow Me to Congratulate Myself

The Norm and her sister plot kept me intrigued for the entire book. Unfortunately, the Truth Commission made me dislike all the main characters. Every time they confront anyone, it turns out for the best.

“I hear your little sister got conned into sexting and her topless pictures wound up online.”

“Yes. I think I’ll rip my shirt off in solidarity. In fact, let’s all get naked!”

“So are you on drugs?”

“This is just the sort of brutal truth I need to go into rehab! Thanks!”

“Nice breast implants!”

“Thank you…cutie.”

I would have liked this book better if more people had told them to mind their own business.

Bonus Factor: School for Fine Arts

Clip from the movie Fame, with kids dancing in the cafeteria

So these kids go to a Fine Arts Academy in British Columbia. Keira is their most famous alumnus. Half the day is spent working on art.

I’m not desperately resentful.

Bonus Factor: *

Live action Asterix and Obelix movie poster

Get it?

This whole book is actually Normandy’s creative writing project. She includes little drawings and dozens of footnotes for her teacher. I’ve only ever seen one other novel that used this gimmick. Unfortunately, most of Normandy’s footnotes are gushing little suck-up messages to her wonderful, wonderful teacher, or speculation on the teacher’s romantic life. I’m sure she loved that.

We’re mandated reporters, kid. Pick and choose what you share carefully, even at an arts school.

Bromance Status: That Student Who Tries to Facebook Friend Me

I know you’re such a trendy book that you think we can have a relationship after I write this review. But seriously, let’s keep it professional.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money or a hand-woven hemp poncho for writing this review. The Truth Commission is out now.

Brian 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.