Blog Tour Review: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour Review: The Truth Commission by Susan JubyThe Truth Commission by Susan Juby
Published by Viking Juvenile on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Humor
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

Open secrets are the heart of gossip—the things that no one is brave or clueless enough to ask. That is, except for Normandy Pale and her friends Dusk and Neil. They are juniors at Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, and they have no fear.

They are the Truth Commission.

Then, one of their truth targets says to Normandy: "If you want to know about the truth, you might want to look a little closer to home." And that means facing Keira, Normandy's brilliant older sister, the creator of a bestselling graphic novel series, who has left college and come home under mysterious circumstances, and in complete silence.

Even for a Truth Commissioner, there are some lines that cannot be crossed.

This dryly funny, knife-sharp novel, written as "narrative nonfiction" by Normandy herself, features footnotes, illustrations, and a combination mystery/love story that will capture readers from the first page.

Don’t let the lackluster cover hold you back. I almost passed on The Truth Commission because, here’s one of my truths, I’m very easily swayed by a book cover. The fact that I’d read and enjoyed a prior Juby novel ages ago (Home to Woefield) swayed me to look deeper. This, friends, was a good choice. Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission is a funny, wry, and thought-provoking look at truth, family, and art school.

gif truth glee

The Truth Commission consists of Normandy Pale’s submission for her big art school project: a creative non-fiction novel about her own life. This technique really could have failed; I’m rarely a fan of the pretense that the author of the story within is actually the main character thing. Here, though, I think it allows Juby to add lightness, growth, and mystery to the story in a really fresh way.

Norm’s writing starts out rough, which is part of the charm of The Truth Commission. She starts out with only technical ideas of how to write a story. She can define the techniques, but she doesn’t know how to deliver them effectively. Knowing infodumps are bad, she includes them anyway with a postmodern self-mocking of herself. Along the way, she makes a lot of common writing mistakes, which throw both her and her reader out of the flow of the story. This is a very rare story where being thrown out of the flow is actually sort of a good thing because it allows the reader to sense the way that Norm has learned over the semester.

gif i'm just honest

The final product for her project isn’t good. Her use of footnotes while funny isn’t used in any sort of consistent fashion; she uses them to suck up to her graders, to explain terms she’s used, to discuss her thought process, and to deliver humorous anecdotes. The opening is obviously clunky. However, the writing of the story was a journey, both skill-wise and emotionally. By the time The Truth Commission got towards the end, Norm ceases questioning her writerly choices quite so much, as did I.

The Truth Commission centers, as you may have guessed, on the concept of truth. Norm’s best friends, Dusk and Neil, decide that they collectively should form a truth commission and ask their peers for the truth. Neil, for example, asks a girl about her new plastic surgery. The results, obviously, are mixed, but are all interesting.

gif truth is as dirty as lies

The thing about The Truth Commission is that it will really make you think. Honesty’s the best policy, but sometimes you should tell the truth but tell it slant. And what about white lies? In life, trying to find that optimum balance between truth and lies (whether by omission, obfuscation, or straight up untruth) is hard. I wonder whether the world would be better if we were all honest, and I honestly don’t know. Like Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen, The Truth Commission makes me want to reevaluate.

Sure, some of the truthing results in awkward or painful consequences, but the net does seem to be quite positive. Though it might suck to deal with feelings that were buried, those sorts of things need to be dealt with at some point. Likely, those not ready to deal with the situation will not answer yet, just as Norm doesn’t open up for most of the book and one of their subjects did not. Also, the act of asking people questions and really caring to listen to their answers forged connections that never would have happened otherwise. Of course, as they point out, they’re art school kids and this experiment might not have worked so well in a different, less accepting, environment. Speaking of, there is so much LGBT+ included in this novel, and I love it so much: there’s a lesbian power couple, a gay married couple, polyamory, and a someone who is still questioning his sexuality when the story ends. What’s really special is how The Truth Commission doesn’t feel heteronormative.

i stand for honesty gif ellen

As The Truth Commission unfolds and Norm opens up to her reader, the real story comes out. It’s a testament to Juby’s talent that the start of the novel, where Norm keeps her cards close to her chest, was just as interesting. Being honest with others and facing up to issues is at the heart of The Truth Commission for sure, but so is family. Juby looks primarily at Norm’s family, and the way they deal with Keira, Norm’s famed prodigy graphic novelist sister. With Keira, Juby delves into questions regarding authors pulling heavily from life and whether that’s okay. Like honesty, it’s another tough call and a really fascinating subject.

I highly recommend The Truth Commission for readers who love when authors experiment with narrative styles. It’s also great for contemporary readers who love a character arc and a focus on family (though there’s an adorable romance too).

Favorite Quote:

As you know, there are several classes of truth. There are the truths that pour out on confessional blogs and YouTube channels. There are the supposed truths exposed in gossip magazines and on reality television, which everyone knows are just lies in truth clothing. Then there are the truths that show themselves only under ideal circumstances: like when you are talking deep into the night with a friend and you tell each other things you would never say if your defenses weren’t broken down by salty snacks, sugary beverages, darkness, and a flood of words. There are the truths found in books or films when some writer puts exactly the right words together and it’s like their pen turned sword and pierced you right through the heart.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif being honest with myself pretty little liars

4 responses to “Blog Tour Review: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby”

  1. Okayyy I want this book now. I have a slight obsession with truth telling and I think this is the right kind of book that will really make me think. And that quote is brilliant.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Most Wanted: May 2015My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      There were several great quotes, but I kept going back to that one. I think you will indeed enjoy the focus on truth. When to tell the whole truth and when not to is a question that I think about occasionally and this book really brought a phase of that on.

  2. Dana says:

    I just returned this to the library because I didn’t get to it. Your review makes me wan to get it back right now. Sounds really interesting now.
    Dana recently posted…Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who _______My Profile

  3. […] “The fact that I’d read and enjoyed a prior Juby novel ages ago {Home to Woefield} swayed me to look deeper. This, friends, was a good choice. Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission is a funny, wry, and thought-provoking look at truth, family, and art school” {read the rest of the review at A Reader of Fictions HERE}. […]

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