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.
Bur 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 firl. 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.
When I saw the words ‘For fans of Sarah Dessen, Jennifer Smith, E. Lockhart and John Green’, I immediately picked up the vibes of this book. I knew it was going to be sweet and funny and a little bit quirky — and that’s exactly what I got. If you’ve read some of my other book reviews, especially my review of Our Chemical Hearts, you’ll know that I’m always a little hesitant about reading books that have been compared to the works of such well-known and widely loved authors. Dana Reinhardt isn’t an author I’d heard of before reading this book, and there was that brief moment of doubt when I began to question whether that quote would just be a ploy to draw people in and almost subliminally convince people that this book would be a success and people would love it and you will be raving about it on every social media site. But after reading Tell Us Something True, I suppose I should tell you the truth.
The truth is… it was fantastic. I honestly didn’t expect to fall in love with this sweet little book in the way that I did. It had me laughing out loud, brushing tears off my cheeks and even reading out paragraphs to anyone around me who would listen. Not only was this novel so beautifully written that it made me want to pick up a paintbrush and write a line or two in a cursive black font on my wall, but the ability of the author to weave her stunning eloquence and ability to convey the meaning of a hundred words in just a sentence made Tell Us Something True an absolute pleasure to read. I know this one will stay in my mind for quite some time to come.
One of the things I loved most about Tell Us Something True was that it felt so incredibly real. The characters weren’t perfect — they were flawed and complicated and sometimes I wanted to slap them, but that didn’t mean I loved them any less. The way that Dana Reinhard conjured up such beautiful and believable characters and situated them in a world that was so developed it almost felt like home was quite extraordinary, even though I’ve never been to LA. This story felt natural and almost effortless, and I absolutely loved being dropped into River’s world.
The diversity in this book is also something it should be commended for. While it’s great to see that a lot of books are becoming more diverse nowadays, I still think that we’ve got a long way to go if people need to question why diversity is ‘such a big deal’ in books. I’m not going to get into that now, but it has to be mentioned that Tell Us Something True will filled to the brim with representation and accurate portrayals of different people, not just society’s stereotyped versions of them. It was also really enjoyable to see River begin to break down some of the stereotypes that he’d been surrounded by and learn to accept people as they are, not try and squash them into a box carved by preconceived ideas.
It said it on the front cover of this book, but I’m going to say it again — River was absolutely adorable and I completely fell in love with him. Yes, he’s not perfect. He lies. He ruins friendships and accidentally ends his fleeting romances. Some of his actions are problematic. But the thing I love most about him is how authentic he is, and how I simply felt like I was getting to know a new friend. There was nothing about him that particularly extraordinary, but what was fantastic about that was that we were given an honest and enjoyable story that perfectly captured the essence of teenage life. Unlike some other novels that set themselves up to be something unforgettable in its grander, Tell Us Something True strikes a chord with readers because it isn’t concerned with being the centre of attention. But it ends up staying in our minds longer than a lot of other novels simply because of that, and the passion that radiates from the pages and the honesty of the lives depicted is truly remarkable.
Another one of this novel’s strong points is the presence of family, which is too often missing in YA fiction. It was lovely to get to know River’s family, and even some of the other characters’ family, and see how this impacted the type of person they were and helped carve out their stories. Tell Us Something True also highlights the importance of recognising that people can be more ‘family’ to you than those who have the same blood as you, but haven’t been there for you. As someone with a family situation similar to River’s, these ideas really hit home that family is comprised of those who love you the most and are always there for you, not just what DNA you have in common. While this wasn’t the main focus of the novel, it formed a really interesting subplot and allowed us to gain a glimpse into the bigger picture surrounding River and the journey that occurred because of his breakup.
Overall, Tell Us Something True is a touching and poignant story about love and lies, and what happens when the two are intertwined. This beautiful and honest coming-of-age story will appeal to readers of all ages, and you’ll want to devour it all in one sitting. I can’t recommend this one enough.
Have you had the chance to read this one yet? Did you connect with River? Are you a fan of the other authors mentioned, such as Sarah Dessen, E. Lockhart or John Green? Do you think YA fiction has been improving in terms of diversity? What book would you recommend to someone who adored this one? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Title: Tell Us Something True
Publication date: August 2016
Australian RRP: $16.99