To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story by Sonya Sones. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013.
Genre: Novel in Verse, Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Does it Break the Slate? Getting there. Colette is on her way to being a Slatebreaker, and while she makes some not great choices along the way we see her really starting to come into her own by the end of the novel.
Who would we give it to? Colette’s mother is a movie star and I think that fans of the Fug Girls Spoiled and Messy will enjoy this one and Sones previous novel One of those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. Also the fact that this is a novel in verse, means plenty of white space on pages, meaning that this book could have real interest for struggling teen readers who don’t want to read a book targeted for a younger audience.
Review: Novels in verse are tricky business. When done well, the poetry adds to the storytelling and showcases a unique type of character voice. When done badly, it’s cringe-worthy. All of Sonya Sones’s books are written in verse style, and I continue to be impressed with how natural the narrative flows and how rarely the verse is distracting.
This book is the story of Colette, a liar. Her shrink tells her that she lies to compensate for being the daughter of a famous movie star and having to live under her mom’s shadow. But Colette doesn’t see it that way – lying is a way of life, a way of having fun, a way of seeing the world through a whole different lens. When her mother insists that Colette and her brother Will spend the summer on location with her in San Luis Obsipo, Colette is furious until she meets Connor, a beautiful boy who makes her see the whole world differently. The summer starts to unfold in a whole new exciting way – until Connor turns out to be not what he seems either.
I liked Colette a lot, which is important. When you have an unreliable narrator, it helps if you are rooting for them from the start. And while her actions in the book are not always Slatebreaking we definitely see her make mistakes, learn from them, and strive to be the person she’s capable of being. The book also features some frank conversations about sex – having it, not having it, what that means, that I thought were honest and well played. The romance is pure fun to read about and the verse makes it a fast-paced, leisurely read that I found myself really enjoying.
My main problem with the book is that everything is just a little too black and white, without a lot of room for complexity. Characters are seen as good until we realize they are all bad or terrible until we discover they are all good. I’d like to see a little more room for shades of grey in between.
Also I can’t stand when a Precocious Child Character (in this case Colette’s younger brother Will) is written with a lisp. It’s painful to read and made me grateful at least that I wasn’t listening to the audio book.
Still though, these are minor complaints, and I enjoyed watching Colette’s journey throughout the summer. If there is a sequel, I’ll read it (and I anticipate seeing Colette reaching further levels of Slatebreaking as her story moves forward).
Reviewed from library copy.