Book Review: The Honest Truth

The Honest Truth
By: Dan Gemeinhart
Published By: Scholastic
Publication Date: January 27th, 2015
Page Count: 240
Source: ARC Kindly Provided By Publisher
Audience/Genre: YA Fiction
 Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.

I finished this wonderful book in two days, and I loved it so much that I bumped the book I was supposed to review today in order to shout its praises from the rooftops, or blogosphere, as it were. I've read several reviews that call this book The Fault in Our Stars for middle grades -- I don't know about that because I've never read TFIOS (cue shock and horror), but I can tell you that if that phrase has piqued your curiosity enough to get you to read the rest of my review of this amazing and authentic novel, it has done its job. ;)

12YO Mark is sick of being "the poor, sick kid," so when he finds out that his cancer has come back more aggressively than before, he decides to fulfill a promise made to his to his dying grandfather and climb to the top of Mount Rainer. Our young hero is convinced he's going to die soon anyway, so he runs away with his backpack, his dog (aside: Beau is one of the best dogs in all of literature), his wits, and his train ticket to Seattle. Mark's best friend Jessie suspects, and then knows, what Mark is up to, and she struggles with whether or not to tell and break the promise to Mark of her silence. She's not sure which might be worse, to lose his trust or to lose him for good.

The plot pacing in The Honest Truth is expertly balanced, when you consider the events that take place from start to finish, the plot is quick and almost relentless, with so many events happening in just a few pages, but it feels slow and intimate because of Mark's solitary journey. Gemeinhart is able to develop anxiety and suspense in just a few words, and his ability to inspire empathy in his reader hits the mark as well. The short, half chapters told from Jessie's perspective are a brilliant addition because they allow the reader to see what's happening at home and she gives a voice to what the reader is thinking.

Style-wise, character-wise, and story-wise, this is a well-crafted novel. There are so many components that work together seamlessly and seem 100% organic, yet any experienced reader/writer knows they're purposeful. For example, Mark's haiku and camera obsessions could either become gimmicky or fade into the background, but they never do. Nothing comes out of left-field, but you're on the edge of your seat for parts of the book, tearing up for others, and it has a satisfying ending with a few ambiguous/leave it to the reader to fill in details that I loved.

I cannot recommend this enough for readers of all ages. Five plus plus plus birdies!

Summary via Goodreads

In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He's got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.

But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier--even if it's the last thing he ever does.

The Honest Truth is a rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments, and the incredible journey of the human spirit.


  1. This actually sounds like a pretty cool book. I have read TFiOS but it wasn't my favourite book, so this sounds like a nice alternative that may have done it well too!

  2. Truly love middle grades books that have a really strong story. I enjoyed TFIOS and would like to get Honest Truth for my students.


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