Review of The Truth Commission

The Truth Commission
by Susan Juby
High School    Viking    310 pp.
4/15    978-0-451-46877-2    $18.99     g

Presented as narrator Normandy Pale’s spring creative nonfiction project, the story recounts the excavation of truth — and its unanticipated after-effects — by three students at a super-artsy Vancouver Island high school. Norm and her two best friends, Neil and Dusk, multitalented artists with quirky habits and fashion sense, blend right in at Green Pastures Academy. Though recognized as the sister of famous graphic novelist Keira Pale, Norm hopes her quiet persona will deflect the unwanted attention cast by Keira’s books, which depict her dysfunctional family in grotesque caricature (Norm is transformed into an “obese, blank-faced flounder”). On the first day of eleventh grade, charming Neil makes a startlingly direct but fruitful inquiry about a classmate’s plastic surgery, and the Truth Commission is born, shifting dynamics both at school and home. Normandy’s wry, detailed observations range from funny to sweet to painfully honest, as she confronts dark secrets in her own family but also discovers that her longtime crush “like likes” her, too. The self-referential narrative is replete with allusions to high art and pop culture that serve to develop the characters’ impressive range of creative and intellectual interests; the extensive footnotes on the writing process and sundry other topics are worth the distraction from the main story (despite Norm’s disclaimers otherwise). Juby’s bright dialogue and vivid, appealing characters draw readers along as the three young artists navigate truths both light and dark, discovering themselves in the process.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Lauren Adams
Lauren Adams
Lauren Adams teaches English and ELL at Natick High School and adolescent literature at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Formerly a Senior Editor for The Horn Book Magazine, she regularly contributes book reviews.

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