Thursday, April 16, 2015

6 Heart Review: The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler + Giveaway! (Open internationally!)

The Truth About Us
Janet Gurtler
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Page Count: 304

Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Sourcebooks and Jean BookNerd!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

A powerful and gripping contemporary YA from the author of I’m Not Her that’s just right for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult.

The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up.
She’s made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she’s paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.

The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is.
She pretends it’s all fine. That her “perfect” family is fine. But it’s not. And no one notices the lie…until she meets Flynn. He’s the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens.

The truth is that Jess is falling apart—and no one seems to care.
But Flynn is the definition of “the wrong side of the tracks.” When Jess’s parents look at him they only see the differences—not how much they need each other. They don’t get that the person who shouldn’t fit in your world... might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.
When the bus approaches, I let [Flynn's] hand go reluctantly and watch out the window until we turn a corner and I can't see him anymore. I wish we could have stayed on the beach forever. But we have to get back to real life and find a way to make it work in a world where people don't think we should be together.
It can't be that bad now that we have each other.

Few YA novels are able to grasp the difficulties and injustices of teenhood while still remaining light and age-appropriate. The Truth About Us tackles painful and sometimes dark real-world struggles—this is no Twilight or Pretty Little Liars—but is still a clean read for younger audiences. Despite its "gripping" content claim, I actually found this a pretty light read. I breezed through it effortlessly; it's one of those books I didn't have to think too deeply about, which is perfect for lounging around with in the upcoming summer months.

There are a few things that just didn't click with me, though. My main issue is that I couldn't really connect with the characters, namely Jess (the narrator) and Flynn (the love interest). It isn't that they're necessarily unlikable, but they just seem too flat, too two-dimensional. Gurtler attempts to add emotional complexity and first-world flaws to Jess's ignorant, rather foolish persona, but it seemed rather forced. There are times her compelling vulnerabilities really shine through, but for the most part, her shallow character is randomly peppered with unrelated "insecurities." Half the time, I was irritated by her depressing, undeservedly bleak outlook on life, considering most of her problems could be easily solved if she would just step it up in the maturity game.

Jess's past remains a mystery throughout the majority of the first half of the book, which would normally be suspenseful, but quickly became annoying. Throughout, she alludes to two prominent tragedies frequently: the loss of her mother and her best friend (figuratively, not literally)—but when these moments are actually finally revealed, they're very much told, rather than shown! I feel like this rendered the entire conflict void; there was no emotional value or imagery connected to what she kept from readers for so long... an anti-suspense, of sorts.

That being said, The Truth About Us isn't completely lacking in redeeming qualities. Many teen romance novels feature a bad boy hero from the "wrong side of the tracks," but with Flynn, it doesn't feel like a YA trope. While his character is also only described on the surface level, I'm definitely impressed with the depth and conviction Gurtler uses to convey the very relevant and very real socioeconomic divide between him and Jess. I also enjoyed how both characters have their own hardships in their lives—whether in the past or present—that raise the stakes in the plot.

I have to admit I was disappointed by the romance aspect of this book, but that's because I'm a bit of a romance fanatic. If you're looking for a love story that'll knock you off your feet... The Truth About Us is definitely not the answer. Keep on searching. However, if you want a contemporary teen novel that deals with bigger issues than just the wobbly knees and stomach butterflies, I think you'll get something out of this one.

Pros


An easy read; quick to get through // Surprisingly sentimental (in a good way!) and emotional for a light YA novel // Interesting synopsis regarding romance obstructed by class difference 

Cons


Didn't blow me away stylistically // Some unrealistic, "too fast, too easy" bits, particularly the underdeveloped insta-love // Jess and Flynn both fall flat as characters // Jess's past isn't explored as much as I would have liked // Rushed, stilted ending—overall unsatisfying

Verdict


Younger teen audiences will be intrigued by this chaste romance story about what happens when a girl who has everything (at least on the outside), meets a guy who lives the kind of poverty-stricken life she didn't even realize existed. While I had some issues with the superficially characterized protagonists and rather plain writing style, I did appreciate the overall conflict that faces real-life problems about social class, friends, and family, that is accented by tender moments of affection and teen love in between Americanflag

6 hearts: Decent for a first read, but I'm not going back; this book is decidedly average (whatever that means!) (x)


Giveaway!


Check out this tour-led Rafflecopter form to see what you can win:
Ends Monday, April 20th, and is open internationally!