Review: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

The Truth Commission by Susan JubyThe Truth Commission
by Susan Juby
Viking/Penguin Group

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Normandy Pale and her two best friends Dusk and Neil embark on a mission to strip away the insulation around fellow students and teachers’ lives and expose the truth. Rumors abound in their small school of the arts, and the three self-appointed members of the Truth Commission want to get to the bottom of each one. At first, the mission seems pure and helpful, but consequences grow with each truth exposed. Then one confronted student suggests Normandy examine her own life for hidden truths. Normandy reluctantly begins a quest for truth that could tear her fragile family apart, and will force each Truth Commissioner to reevaluate whether uncovering the truth is always worth its price.

In the beginning of the story, some elements felt too immature for the ages of the characters. For instance, they “smoke” candy cigarettes, which seemed far too juvenile for high school juniors. In the end, it seemed to work because the characters (Dusk, Neil and Normandy) are all so off-beat and unusual themselves. The power of the story comes through its careful exploration of exposing truth and its outcomes.

As Normandy narrates via “nonfiction narrative,” the truth exploration becomes much more complicated. She wonders whether she and her friends have a right to demand truth from anyone else, and if there are truths best left unspoken. Overall, a complex story with a fascinating cast of characters. Fans of Sarah Mlynowski’s Don’t Even Think About It will enjoy Juby’s novel.

Language Content
Strong profanity used with moderate frequency.

Sexual Content
Normandy and her friends confront a girl whose sister was rumored to bare her body on a web cam. There’s a discussion about how modesty is essentially a bad thing and no one should be judged for what they wear (or don’t wear.) The conversation sparks a school-wide parade in which students undress down to undergarments and label themselves using some derogatory terms. Students are pretty charged up about it, but later the girl who started the parade appears troubled and admits that her sister may not have been the innocent victim that she presented her to be. The bullying that happened around the time of the web cam incident may have had more to do with the fact that the sister was engaging in some risky behavior involving “the wrong crowd” and another girl’s boyfriend. There’s not a lot of judgement passed on these situations, in particular whether the parade was helpful or misguided. Normandy does appear to have very mixed feelings.

Brief discussion about a girl who appears to have two boyfriends. (Vague speculation about threesomes, but no details.) Brief kissing. Brief reference to a girl who was raped. No details.

Spiritual Content

Normandy sees artwork depicting a man being pushed from a cliff.

Drug Content
The Truth Commission confronts a boy with a reputation for drug use. Normandy finds an assortment of prescription drugs in an empty apartment. No scenes depicting drug use.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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