The Almost Truth
Author: Eileen Cook
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover borrowed from Toronto Public Library
My rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
From Goodreads: From the author of Unraveling Isobel and The Education of Hailey Kendrick, a smart, romantic novel about a teenage con artist who might be in over her head.
Sadie can’t wait to get away from her backwards small town, her delusional mom, her jailbird dad, and the tiny trailer where she was raised…even though leaving those things behind also means leaving Brendan. Sadie wants a better life, and she has been working steadily toward it, one con at a time.
But when Sadie’s mother wipes out Sadie’s savings, her escape plan is suddenly gone. She needs to come up with a lot of cash—and fast—or she’ll be stuck in this town forever.
With Brendan’s help, she devises a plan—the ultimate con—to get the money. But the more lies Sadie spins, the more she starts falling for her own hoax…and perhaps for the wrong boy. Sadie wanted to change her life, but she wasn’t prepared to have it flipped upside down by her own deception. With her future at stake and her heart on the line, suddenly it seems like she has a lot more than just money to lose…
The Almost Truth is one of those kind-of-perfectly-done books that only come up once in awhile. Sadie’s story is so well-drawn, so perfectly paced, so twisty-turny…without being cheesy or cliche. This is how you do a YA contemporary novel.
I can’t really explain why this worked so well for me. Maybe it was the fact that every time I thought I knew what was going to happen at the end, I turned a page and Eileen Cook showed me that she was one step ahead of me. Maybe it was the fact that I really didn’t know which boy to root for at first, or that if there was a love triangle, I couldn’t even call it that. Maybe it was how frustrated I got with Sadie’s parents and how horrible I felt they were being to her, only to find out that I might have been wrong about the whole thing.
I love it when I find books that are cleverly plotted and make decisions on what to show and what not to show. In The Almost Truth, I really felt that Cook’s decisions NOT to include certain scenes made a bigger impact on the novel as a whole. She trusted her readers to be able to fill in a lot of things by themselves. There are certain big, epic moments in narratives that we’ve all seen before – and sometimes the best way to deal with them is to let the reader play out those scenes the way they need to.
Can I geek out for a second about the writing? This is my first Eileen Cook novel, and I was blown away by her clarity and precision . It was so crisp and clear that I felt like I was in a writing masterclass. Every single description and line felt like it had been deliberated over in order to get the exact tone that Cook wanted. I know every writer puts a lot of effort into their words, but in this book, I really enjoyed every single sentence. There was no rush to get to the next part – I savoured each word.
Mysterious Circumstances, But Not in a Paranormal Sense – you guys know I’m not into para stuff, right? That said, I do like a good mystery, and I love twists and turns in my books! This one has a great one.
Smart, Sassy Protagonist – I can totally picture Alex from The Descendants as Sadie. She’s smart, vulnerable and tough, and not afraid to tell it like it is.
The Bad Boy – Oh, Brendan. <sigh> You’re a total player, but you care so much about Sadie, and you totally want to do right by her and be by her side. Classic bad boy. Classic crush.
Love Triangle Done Right – I know a lot of people roll their eyes at love triangles, but I’m telling you, when it’s done right, it’s MASTERFUL. How do you do it right? Focus on the characters. Every character should just be a character with his/her own wants and needs, and it might happen that those wants and needs intersect. This one was hardly a triangle, which means it was totally done right.
The Final Word
I am SO glad that Eileen Cook’s acquisitions editor/agent saw the brilliance of her writing and got this book published. The Almost Truth is smart, perfectly-plotted, and a really great read. I was totally drawn in by Sadie’s snarky, fun personality and the mystery of the story. The romance and emotional payoff were awesome and authentic.
Contemporary YA junkies, Ally Carter fans looking for something a little slower-paced, readers who like mature YA, and people who love really solid YA writing.
Have you read The Almost Truth or any of Eileen Cook’s other novels? What do you think?