All of This Is True by Lygia Day Penaflor
|All of This Is True by Lygia Day Penaflor|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Tense thriller written post hoc in a reportage style. It's compelling and taut and the premise is fabulous. Slightly let down by uninteresting characterisation and easy-to-guess reveals.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: May 2018|
|Publisher: Harper Teen|
|External links: Author's website|
Undertow is the latest YA novel to hit the best seller lists. It's a study in grief and Miri is its biggest fan. So, when author Fatima Ro comes to Long Island for a book signing, Miri is determined to meet her and takes her friends along. Soleil has writing ambitions of her own and so she is overjoyed when Fatima takes the group of friends under her wing. Penny wants to be noticed and will do anything for Fatima, who notices. And Jonah? Well, Jonah has secrets and Fatima loves secrets...
... but everything has changed just a year later. Fatima herself has disappeared from the lives of this group of friends but her novel, based on confidences they all shared with Fatima, has not. And the novel has set in motion some disastrous consequences.
All of This Is True has some really interesting themes. It explores the nature of celebrity and the complex dynamics within fandoms and high school pecking orders. And it's also quite existential in its pondering of redemption - can people change? Should we forgive? There is a lot to think about here and room for all sorts of follow-on discussions. I also enjoyed the reportage style - Penaflor uses interviews and journals interspersed with extracts from the novel that has caused all the fuss. This style not only gives All of This Is True its unique selling point, but it also provides a way of seeing events from multiple points of view. I enjoyed this format and I think Penaflor did really well in carrying it off while maintaining a fluid and moreish engagement with readers.
It's not perfect. The big reveal of the friendship group and the resulting controversial novel is never much of a reveal but rather obvious from very early on and this took a lot of the potential tension and neutralised it. And the various characters are quite cookie cutter high school "types". I'd have liked more nuance in the characterisation. And the very end left me a little deflated - I'm not sure what the authorial message was or what I supposed to take from it.
For me, All of This is True had a great premise and made me think about a lot of interesting and important issues. But it was a little let down by its execution.
Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess also uses a reportage style for a tense thriller that ponders on the nature of fame and celebrity.
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You can read more book reviews or buy All of This Is True by Lygia Day Penaflor at Amazon.com.
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