________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 34 . . . . May 8, 2015


The Truth About Us.

Janet Gurtler.
Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2015.
312 pp., trade pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-1-4022-7800-6.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Karen Boyd.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


The house is quiet. There’s no movement from Mom’s room. Allie isn’t home. I sit on the couch and stare at the floor I don’t have to wait long before my dad arrives.

He closes the door quietly behind him, but his face is white he’s so angry. “I don’t understand you, Jess,” he says.

I expect him to yell, but he doesn’t.

“Not only were you drinking and sunbathing topless. MasterCard called me,” he says in a quiet voice. “You charged over ten thousand dollars to our account? For a dress?”

“It had ostrich feathers,” I tell him and close my eyes. It doesn’t seem hilarious anymore. Or like the perfect prom dress. I don’t tell him Mom gave me permission to buy a dress. I’m stupid, but not that stupid.

I wait. But there’s no yelling. Nothing.

Finally I open my eyes and what I see shocks me more than anything.

He’s sitting on his leather chair. His favorite chair. Across the room. His head is in his hands. His shoulders are shaking.

He’s crying?

I’ve never seen him cry in my life. I feel even worse.


Jess lives in a beautiful home in the best part of town. She has fun friends, lots of free time, and unlimited money. She’s seems to have everything, and she’s spiraling out of control. At home, Jess is incredibly lonely. Her mother is not recovering from a severe trauma and spends most of her time in her darkened bedroom. Jess is estranged from her best friend and has resorted to hanging out with the equally troubled Nance. When Jess steps over the line enough to get noticed by her dad, he cracks down by signing her up to do volunteer work at New Beginning, a missionary shelter and soup kitchen. Over the summer, Jess begins to find away back to herself with the help of Flynn, who uses the soup kitchen, and Wilf, the grumbly senior citizen volunteer.

     There isn’t much new in The Truth About Us. It has the elements of a “wild rich girl meets boy from the wrong side of the tracks with a heart of gold” story. Jess and Flynn have a love at first sight, torn apart, tearful reunion relationship. That being said, Gurtler has written some very likeable and relatable characters. Throughout the book, she slowly reveals the motivation and backstory of both the main characters and also the supporting characters, including Nance, Jess’ mom, Wilf, even Flynn’s mom. Jess discovers the people behind the poverty and homelessness at the soup kitchen and also comes to understand the people who live in her world of privilege. Her stereotypical views are challenged both by what she discovers but also by the realization that others were judging her based on what they saw on the outside.

     While The Truth About Us is set in an American city, Manitoba readers will recognize some references to Winnipeg. Gurtler notes in her acknowledgements that she based her setting on Winnipeg’s Siloam Mission. Jess’ part of town is called Tuxedo and the hospital is Deer Lodge. In some ways, having those reference points threw me off when something didn’t fit, like the lack of health insurance for Flynn’s family. However, readers without those reference points wouldn’t have a problem.

     The book wraps up a little too nicely but I actually wanted the hopeful ending. The Truth About Us balanced page turning predictability with just enough depth to feel that it was worth the read.


Dr. Karen Boyd is the English Language Arts and Literacy consultant with Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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