The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

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The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Desperately sad but ultimately uplifting, a great, emotional page-turner for tweens.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: March 2015
Publisher: Chicken House
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781910002131

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Mark has been battling cancer for more than half his life. For the last seven years he has missed school, been through treatments, and come close to death time and again. With the call that once again the cancer is back, he just can't face going through it again and so he takes his dog Beau and they run away to go and climb a mountain, with the intention that he will never return.

The story is told in alternating parts from both Mark's point of view, and also from his friend Jessie's. She is left with the unenviable task of navigating what to do once he's gone - she is the only one who knows where he is heading, and she doesn't know whether she should tell her mum, or Mark's parents, or the police hotline, or whether Mark is relying on her to keep his secret for him. I felt angry with Mark, for leaving Jessie with this dilemma. I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to hold onto his secret for so long, but then Mark and Jessie have been friends for a long time, and they've been through a great deal together. Jessie's conflict matched my own as a reader, since I both sympathised with and understood Mark's need and desire to run away to die on his own terms but, at the same time, felt the sadness over what he was doing and how it was affecting everyone who loved him.

Mark's journey is far from easy, and after an initial good start soon nothing seems to go well for him. The relationship he has with his dog really grows and develops through the hardships though and I don't mind admitting that I did shed a tear or two. Beau is just exactly the sort of dog you'd want, or you'd want your twelve year old son to have, and I love the way that the devotion they have for each other is shown. I also liked the haikus that appear throughout the book. We find out that Mark and Jessie often wrote haikus to each other, and Mark's, I felt, are both moving yet realistic for his age.

Mark's interactions with other bit-part characters on his journey are interesting and thought-provoking in their own ways. He is robbed, he is cared for, he meets a little girl who is angry at her parents for divorcing, and a man whose heart is heavy with sadness. There are stories within stories there, and everyone feels very real. At times you think Mark can't possibly make it any further, and I really wasn't sure quite how the book would end. I had my breath over and over, ready to cry! I won't spoil what happens for you. It's well written, that's all you need to know!

This book is every bit as emotional as you'd expect. I initially found that I was reading it with my mummy hat on, outraged that Mark gets so far away from home without anyone stopping him, and desperate for someone, anyone, to call his poor mum and tell him where he was! Yet as I got more caught up in the story I slipped back into that feeling I used to have, as a young girl, of living within the world created by a book and not worrying about realities and practicalities. I was just whisked away on Mark's journey, hoping against hope that he would making it to the mountain, yet knowing that if he did that was where he intended to die. The characters are realistic, and the conflicting points of view leave you with a lot of thoughts in your head about life and love and friendship and death. Although it's quite a dark subject I think mature eight year olds could manage it without finding it too upsetting. I think it would be enjoyed by anyone really though, from tweens, into teens, and beyond.

More for older teens due to some of the content, but this is another moving, well-written cancer story: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Buy The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart at


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