Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

I have been a huge fan of Susan Juby since her Alice Macleod series, Alice, I Think; Miss Smithers; and Alice Macleod, Realist at Last. Juby is a Canadian author who writes YA and adult novels (and a memoir), and her books are some of my favourites. 

The Truth Commission was released this year and takes place at the fictional Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design in Nanaimo, BC. It focuses on high school student Normandy Pale, whose sister is acclaimed graphic novelist Keira Pale. Keira has effectively fictionalized the family life of the Pales, turning her sister Normandy into a cruel representation, and rewriting family events and stories.

The story starts when Keira comes back to live at home, and begins telling Normandy strange half-stories at night, all of which allude to why she mysteriously left art college to move back in with her family. Meanwhile, at school, Normandy and her friends Dusk and Neil decide to form "The Truth Commission," which requires them to ask questions of other students at their school that get to the bottom of gossip and rumour. Their first truth telling: finding out if student Aimee Danes got a boob job over the summer. They're surprised by how easily the truth comes when they ask. School truths get mixed up with home truths, and Normandy finds herself wading through both. 

As well, Normandy is writing her account of "The Truth Commission" as part of her creative nonfiction class at school; the manuscript is the final project that she's going to turn in for credit. She uses extensive footnotes as a tool for explaining how she uses elements like backstory, exposition, dialogue, and transition in her manuscript, proving to her teacher that she knows the rhetoric of creative nonfiction. There are also some illustrations added throughout the novel, all helpful for adding veracity to her account.

There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in The Truth Commission. Juby's wry and quirky humour is on display, and this was the first of Juby's recent writing that really reminded me of the Alice Macleod series. On a recent episode of This Creative Life with Sara Zarr, YA novelist Gayle Forman (If I Stay) highly recommended The Truth Commission, and Jaclyn Moriarty has championed the novel as well. It's an excellent read, highlighting Juby's humour and offering a thoughtful examination of truth and storytelling. 

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