(I highly recommend reading a middle grade novel when you’re looking for a nice escape and a book with limited time commitment.)
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, released by Scholastic Press in January 2015, has been getting a lot of great reviews – and for a good reason. This novel tackles sensitive topics in a unique way, and the writing is really quite profound.
The novel is told in alternating first-person and third-person chapters, which I initially found jarring but ultimately embraced. It was a choice made for a reason, and I like when authors try something different.
The protagonist of The Honest Truth is twelve-year-old Mark. Mark is “normal” in that he likes writing haikus with his best friend, Jessica, and taking photographs with his grandfather’s camera. He has a loyal dog named Beau who has been through everything with him. But Mark is not normal in the fact that he is very sick. This sickness has disrupted his life for so long that he decides to run away. And so, Mark packs his backpack and sets off to climb a mountain, with Beau by his side. It’s his one goal, and the one thing he can control.
As a reader I had to suspend my disbelief as this young boy and his dog face challenges and meet all sorts of characters. Back at home, Mark’s parents are scared and heartbroken; Jessica, in her third-person narration, worries about responsibility. Is it her responsibility to tell Mark’s parents where he’s gone? Is it her responsibility to keep her best friend’s secret?
The Honest Truth is tastefully-done, and certainly brought a few tears to my eyes. One of my favorite relationships in the novel? The bond between Mark and Beau! I’m sure all pet owners will understand that unbreakable bond.
I think this is a great novel for middle grade readers because the characters are vivid and the novel’s format is engaging. The topics of pain, grief, responsibility, and friendship will hopefully spark discussion between friends and in the classroom.
Have you read The Honest Truth? What middle grade novels have stuck with you over the years?