Monday, 29 August 2016

'Tell Us Something True', by Dana Reinhardt

Title:Tell Us Something True
Author(s): Dana Reinhardt
Release Date: 20th July 2016
Publisher: Rock The Boat
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Source: Publisher (ARC)

Synopsis:
For fans of Sarah Dessen, Jennifer Smith, E.L. Lockhart, and John Green, this delightful, often comic coming-of-age novel stars the lovable, brokenhearted River, the streets of LA, and an irresistible cast of characters.

Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.

But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

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After reading the blurb or this book and seeing it is recommended for fans of John Green, I had been expecting an emotionally draining, 'cry your eyes out book'.

Boy, was I wrong.

What I absolutely loved about this story was how it approaches serious topics with a light-hearted tone while at the same time not diminishing their importance. This balance is not easy to achieve (more often than not, in other cases, the attempt to make a story funny just makes it offensive), and I was in awe throughout my reading. I didn't feel guilty when I laughed. I laughed (and a lot) because it was funny. It was a genuine laugh, and not one of 'oh, should I actually be laughing at this?'. But, in the end, the underlying message still came through, and I loved it.

This tone is heavily due to River's voice. He has become one of my favorite contemporary narrators, and I wish I could read rivers (ah) of books from his point of view. His cluelessness was endearing, and his overall personality like one I don't think I've ever seen before. He takes us through the break up with his girlfriend and his memories of their relationship in a surprisingly 'detached' manner, even though he is completely obsessed with getting back together with her for most of the book. Not wanting to, of course, spoil anything about the end, this was a great way to really tie together the entire story and show the character development he goes through.

In fact, I think this story wouldn't have worked at all if it weren't for River's way of being making it all make sense. It would be incredibly easy to hate a character that crashes a group of troubled teenagers and lies about himself with ulterior motives, but, being River, you get it. He might not be a (real) drug addict or a shop lifter, but he has his problems, even if he doesn't want to admit that to himself, and that is, oddly, the place for him to be.

With such an evidently unique character, it was a surprise to see the supporting cast of teenagers step up and not being hidden in his shadow. From River's friends, to the other members of the group, and even to River's ex girlfriend (who is not made out to be the villain, hallelujah), everyone has their time to shine and the opportunity to reveal themselves as people and not just through the relationships they maintain with River. The variety in racial representation was also a very welcome plus.

As for the writing, I believe it needless to say I want to make my way through Dana's other works as soon as possible. Even taking into account they won't be about River (I fell in love with the guy, can we please have more?), she brings characters to life in such a beautiful way that I know without a doubt I would easily fall in love with anyone she comes up with.

But, seriously, where's my sequel?

'Tell Us Something True' is the story of an unusual boy following an unusual path towards his dream, even if he has to walk to get to them. If you are tired of the same old contemporary novels, this is a fresh, new take on the genre with a compelling voice and lovable characters, approaching topics that everyone will be able to relate to.

Because who has never had their heart broken?

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