April 09, 2015

The Truth Commission

by Susan Juby
Razorbill Canada
272 pp.
Ages 14+
For release April 2015

The truth really doesn't need any embellishments, does it?  It is as it should be. Nothing more, nothing less.  But sixteen-year-old Normandy Pale, the narrator and writer behind The Truth Commission, a piece of creative non-fiction for her Spring Special Project at Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design in Nanaimo, does recognize that,
"When you tell a story, you shape the truth." (pg. 293)
And she and her best friends, Dusk (actually Dawn) Weintraub-Lee and Neil Sutton attempt to bring some much needed truth into a world overflowing with lies.  From Aimee Danes, whose new nose and chest scream to share her new truths with the world, and the snarly office secretary Mrs. Dekker to fellow students Tyler Jones, Zinnia McFarland, and Brian Forbes, the unofficial Truth Commission trio attempt to learn the truths about everything from motivations, love interests, heritage and substance abuse. But attempts to shed light on the truth are not always easy and rarely straightforward, often with unforeseen consequences.

But Normandy is having her own crisis of truths, dealing with the return home of her astoundingly successful older sister, Keira, from the California Institute of Art and Design. While still at Green Pastures, Keira had created a massively popular graphic novel series called the Diana Chronicles, about a girl who lives with her painfully average family on Earth and travels to an alternate universe, Vermeer, where she is queenExcept for Diana, the family resembles Normandy's family in the worst possible way, exaggerating their attributes to humiliating proportions. But something is amiss with Keira and Normandy is looking to help by getting at the truth, though the family's head-in-the-sand attitude is problematic.

The truth may be out there but it may not always be ideal to seek it out.  Susan Juby's characters, both main and secondary, demonstrate the precarious nature of the truth, though some recognize that truth sooner than later.  But their interactions with regards to the truth are what makes the story so lively, particularly with Normandy bridging the extreme differences between her friends and family when seeking the truth. What to do?
To be honest, Susan Juby's writing is like a Disney bandage on your heart.  It has delightful colour and humour that can hide something as simple as a paper cut (still very painful!) or a deep, festering wound.  It's not until you look under the bandage that the true depth of the story is evident.  The reader is glad for the amusing cover-up because it helps manage the pain beneath.  Even though removing the bandage can be agonizing, it must be done. Not unlike the truth.  And, in my opinion, Susan Juby's truth is the quality she attributes to some authors:
"There are the truths...when some writer puts exactly the right words together and it's like their pen turned sword and pierced you right through the heart." (pg. 10)
Susan Juby's pen is both honest and piercing in The Truth Commission, and I relished it wholeheartedly.


Two Truths and a Lie (from yesterday's post)

If you haven't guessed yet, #3 is the lie.  Norm is short for Normandy and is all girl.  Ask Neil.

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