Title: The Truth About Us
Author: Janet Gurtler
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (Sourcebooks imprint)
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.
The Truth About Us is smart and honest, the story of a teen girl coming to terms with her mistakes, her imperfect perfect family, and with finding the one person who makes everything feel better.
Jess is smart but reckless. Compassionate, understanding. Trying to escape the unspoken words that fill her house. The soup kitchen isn't somewhere she wants to be at the beginning, but it shows her another side of living, the less privileged side. The side that needs a helping hand more often than not. She learns from being there, but a number of people don't see that. They constantly see her as flighty and foolish. They don't think she understands. They think she's just playing with Flynn, trying him out like he's a sweater or a pair of shoes she can return if she gets tired of it fast enough. Maybe she doesn't know everything about the world, but she's not as clueless as some people think.
This book says a lot about privilege, both racial and financial. Jess has a lot. Her family lives in a big house in a nice neighbourhood. Her and her sister share a nice car. Her mother can afford not to work (when you take away the reason why she's currently not working, it's not that she doesn't work but that she can't work). On the other side in Flynn, whose mother works constantly to pay the bills, who lives where it isn't the nicest or the most crime free, who relies on the soup kitchen for healthy meals for he and his brother. Jess is white. Flynn is biracial, his mother Asian. Because of where they live, what they look like, people assume a lot about them. That Jess is spoiled, that she doesn't understand hardship. That Flynn is trouble, that he'll only drag Jess down. Working at the kitchen makes Jess realize a number of things. That she's lucky. That the people who use soup kitchens and shelters aren't bad people. That you can't judge people so easily. There's no perfect solution, though, but this book does highlight the start of something for Jess.
Like Janet Gurtler's previous books, this doesn't pull its punches. No one has it easy and everyone needs to learn something after making mistakes. This also says a number of things about female friendship and family dynamics, about speaking up and speaking out. About being honest when you're tired of living surrounded by lies and denial. A definite must-read for fans of contemporary YA.
(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)