A powerful and gripping contemporary YA from the author of I'm Not Her that's "Just right for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult."-Booklist
The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up.
She's made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she's paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is.
She pretends it's all fine. That her "perfect" family is fine. But it's not. And no one notices the lie...until she meets Flynn. He's the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens.
The truth is that Jess is falling apart and no one seems to care.
But Flynn is the definition of "the wrong side of the tracks." When Jess's parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don't get that the person who shouldn't fit in your world... might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.
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I have fifteen minutes to get home. It's a twenty-five-minute walk.
I'm so dead.
If I were smarter, I'd run, rise to the challenge or something, but I'm not even moving at all. Instead, I'm stuck, my feet immobile on the sidewalk, all because of a pedestrian sign flashing a red hand at me, commanding me to stay where I am. The Jeopardy theme song plays in my head as I wait for the green light. Penny and I used to love watching Jeopardy. She always knew more answers. I wonder if she still watches. I gave it up when Penny and I stopped being best friends and Nance took her place.
"Hey, Jess," a girl says as she and a boy walk past. I wave and my cheeks burn brighter, because it's awkward and weird to be busted with my feet refusing to move until a light turns green. The girl is a friend of my sister; I don't know the guy. They obviously don't share my hang-up about jaywalking, and they cross the street without even glancing around for cars.
No matter how hard I try to shake it off, choke its hold, and squeeze it out, some of my lameness still lingers in my cells, part of who I really am. Or who I was. I don't know anymore.
"It's not a good idea to walk all alone at night," she calls back like she's a friggin' genius and I'm the poster child for bad choices. The light finally changes, and I step onto the road and walk, glancing down at my phone. My head is fuzzy and my heart pounds thinking about my dad at home waiting for me. I didn't plan to screw up again, but apparently it's kind of a gift, because I'm really, really good at it. Being late will equal no phone for a few days at least. My dad knows how much I hate to lose my phone.
I jump when a car toots the horn as it whizzes by. A boy screams something about my ass and whistles. My heart beats faster, and for a second, fear springs the hairs up on my arms and a swooshing sensation swells in my belly. Fear feels a lot like excitement. The fact that some pervert thinks I'm whistle-worthy might be the best part of my day. Of course, pervert is the key word. So he's probably not that picky.
"Does your stupidity not know any bounds?" I hear my dad say in my head.
I worry it doesn't. And wish he were away on one of his business trips so I wasn't in this bind. In lots of ways, things are easier when he's gone. I think about blaming Nance for my predicament. She does have a knack for getting me into these situations. Of course, I have a knack for letting her. Besides, responsibility for my own actions and all that. Blaming her will get me exactly nowhere.
Another car whizzes past, and I glance back to see if my sister's friend is still behind me, but she's nowhere in sight. They must have turned down another street or live somewhere close by. There's another car coming now, and it's driving slower. I know from every horror show I've ever watched that it's not a good sign. Man, I know from what happened to my mom it's not a good sign.
I force myself to glare at the car. It's an old rust bucket, "an eyesore" as my dad would say. Not the kind of car usually seen in this neighborhood. I frown and peer inside, keeping my expression fierce. When I see the driver grinning at me, I relax a little. He's about my age, and his smile reminds me of a floppy-eared golden retriever. Friendly. Wouldn't hurt a soul. The guy in the passenger seat stares off into the distance, as if he doesn't see me.
"Hey," the driver calls and leans forward to look at me with an even bigger smile. "Where ya headed?"
He's cute. Blond with overly spiky hair. I have an urge to offer him a treat. Scratch him behind the ear. His car is a total piece of crap, and the guys inside obviously aren't from around here, but they look harmless.
"Home," I tell him and glance at the passenger again. He's good looking too but in a totally different way. His hair is longish and black. His eyes are dark. He looks biracial or something. Exotic and almost pretty. He turns his head and looks right at me. When our eyes meet, my insides mush together. Fear or excitement? It's hard to tell them apart sometimes.
"Come on. I'll give you a lift," the driver calls. "I'm Braxton Brooks," he offers. "This is Flynn. He's not as badass as he thinks he is."
Flynn. I have an urge to say the name out loud. To feel the shape of the quick and hard sound on my lips.
"Screw you, Brooks," Flynn says, and I turn away so he doesn't see me smile.
The car drives slowly beside me.
"No strings," Braxton calls. "We're not serial killers or anything."
"You sure about that?" the passenger asks. His voice is deep and low.
I stop walking and narrow my eyes, a nervous sensation pooling in my stomach. When my gaze locks with Flynn's, goose bumps run up my arm and I'm as woozy as if my blood sugar plummeted. I get a sort of déjà vu vibe from him, as if we've met before.
"What's the matter? Are you drunk?" he asks.
"Not anymore." A heated blush melts my mouth into a frown.
"Chill, Flynn," Braxton says to him and leans forward to smile before returning his attention to the road. "We'll drive you home. Come on. We're from Tadita too. Not this neighborhood, but I know I've seen you around. You're not scared of us, are you?"
It sounds like a challenge, and I'm not going to admit to being scared. Still I hesitate. A tiny argument starts up in the back of my head. I don't recognize them. They don't go to my school. But they would get me home by curfew. Besides, rapists or murderers don't give out their names. I won't lose my phone privileges. I'll stay out of trouble. A swoop of adrenaline bungee jumps up and down in my gut as I consider my options. I don't want more trouble at home. I want my troubles at home to leave me the hell alone.
"You're not actually going to accept a ride from perfect strangers?" Flynn asks.
I glare at him. That's an even bigger challenge.
"It's a basic," he says. "Something you learn in kindergarten."
"Dude," Braxton says to him. "Quit dicking around." He leans forward. "Don't listen to him. We'll take you straight home. It's safer than walking."
The vodka coolers I drank at Nance's earlier still linger in my system though they're wearing off in the cool night air. I lift my chin to show him I'm not afraid. I might be a girl who can't cross the street when the light flashes at me, but I reach for the car door handle.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love love love this book. Very quick read.
I recently read (and loved!) #16thingsIthoughweretrue by Janet Gurtler. So I was super excited to read The Truth About Us. It was on my TBR list and when Sourcebooks emailed me to review it, I jumped on the chance to read it. Let me just tell you it was everything I hoped it would be! Jess was the good girl, actually the good rich girl, but her family has had some troubles and she has done the typical teen thing and acted out.Flynn is not exactly from the right part of town, actually Jess meets him when she is forced to volunteer in a soup kitchen as punishment by her father. But it turns out that he is a great guy, and they seem to fit together really well. Jess also meets a lot of other incredible people along the way and learns a lot about herself and who she is, and that money isn’t everything. I gotta tell you, this one had me bawling at one point. Such a great book! I loved it and definitely worth the five stars I’ve rated it! Holy cow, I can see this one being on my favorites of 2015! Such a sweet, lovely story! I tell you this book stole my heart and won me over. The Truth About Us…
I’ve been interested in author Janet Gurtler’s novels ever since reading her novel How I Lose You. It was a heartbreaking story that caught my interest immediately and The Truth About Us was no different. It sounded unlike anything I’d had the opportunity to read before. A novel that deals with a good girl gone bad who is still secretly good on the inside? A boy who sees through the guise? A story dealing with who we present ourselves to be versus who we really are underneath it all? The Truth About Us totally sounded like my cup of tea. Jess knows that what happened with her ‘best friend’ Nance was a complete and total mistake. A couple of foolish teenage shenanigans resulted in her father finally putting his foot down on her rebellious ways. Being forced to volunteer at a soup kitchen, Jess meets Flynn. Immediately the party girl persona that Jess has built up for herself is washed away by Flynn and the new friends she makes at the kitchen. Everything about Flynn tells her to stay away from him. They come from two separate worlds. Jess lives a life of lavish where Flynn and his family can barely get by. However despite their differences, Flynn and Jess are more similar than either of them know. Together, the two of them soon realize that there’s a pull between them, and that they need each other more than they realize. The premise of The Truth About Us was intriguing and reeled me in. We’re first introduced to the novel with Jess’s party girl lifestyle. We witness the big mistake she’s made that has forced her father to have her ‘volunteer’ at the soup kitchen and watch as Jess’s life comes falling down around her. The Truth About Us presents a main character to readers who is falling apart inside and whose relationship with the people around her helps pull her back together. While the romance between Flynn and Jess is one of the driving forces behind that re-connection with Jess’s true self, the power of friendship and discovering who she really is and who she wants to be also play a key role in her reconciliation with herself. Gurtler’s writing is still smooth and easy to read. Her simplistic prose keeps the storyline flowing and holds the reader’s attention. The characterization is unique and enjoyable. One of my favorite characters in the story was the elderly man Wilf who is still mourning the loss of his wife Rhea. Wilf is the sweetest character ever and he absolutely broke my heart. He’s this little old man who offers wisdom and eye-opening advice to Flynn and Jess. Not to mention the story of how he met Rhea is one that made my heart swell up and will stick with me long after having finished the novel (seriously, it’s just too cute). The only con I would say that there was to the novel would be the instances where some of Jess’s internal thoughts weren’t as ‘teenager-y’ as they were intended to sound. Those instances would leave me placing the book down and kind of take a minute to pause before going back to the storyline. It isn’t a major thing that should deter readers but was the one little detail that scratched at me time and time again. Readers who are fans of contemporary YA and readers who are big fans of YA romance will love The Truth About Us. Readers who have read Gurtler’s novels in the past and who enjoyed them will definitely enjoy The Truth About Us. Anyone who is looking for a novel with characters whose internal struggles are ‘deep’ and whose characterization holds a sense of humbling realism should also give The Truth About Us a go.
The Truth about Us was a total whim read. I received this book from the publisher during their spring preview and I never really thought about it since then. However last month, I wanted to read something quick and breezy and I decided to try it out for two reason 1) Janet Gurtler is a canadian author, 2) I was in a horrible reading slump and needed a contemporary I knew nothing about. I am so glad I picked up The Truth about Us because it was fantastic! It definitely took me out of my reading slump and now I will be picking up all of Janet Gurtler's books. I actually own Who I Kissed so that will be next on my list. The Truth about Us revolves around Jess, a girl coming from a rich family.. but definitely not a perfect one. It seems like her family is falling apart. Her mother is in her room all the time due to an incident the readers are kept in the dark about. Jess's dad is working constantly, while her sister pretty much moved into her boyfriend's family's house and is never seen at home. This leaves Jess alone all day, or hanging out with her one friend.. who is a horrible influence on her. Jess ends up getting in trouble for something stupid she did (she bought a ten thousand dollar dress online), and her dad finally puts his foot down. Next thing she knows, she is signed up to volunteer at a soup kitchen called New Beginnings. Honestly? Jess is so down to earth, I loved that she wasn't the stereotypical rich kid. Yes, she isn't used to poverty or seeing poverty. Yes, she was uncomfortable during the first days at New Beginnings, but who wouldn't be? when one has only known luxury living? What was more interesting to me was how everyone pretty much discriminated against Jess for being rich. It was so shocking how she was ostracized at times just because she has more money than them. I just feel like only when someone rich discriminates against someone poor does it turn into the issue.. but when the opposite happens… then it is justified. I really do not like the double standards of our world. I loved the friendship Jess strikes up with Whilf, a 70 year old who takes care of the greenhouse he gave to the soup kitchen. I loved their banter together and enjoyed their scenes. As for Flynn, the love interest.. I really really liked him. He had his insecurities and it was so cute seeing them together.. however, I truly did not like the ending… it felt like Janet Gurtler tried to deviate from the typical YA endings, but decided against it in the last minute. This was the one time I was happy if the couple didn't end up together because it felt realistic and appropriate. That is mainly why I didn't give The Truth about Us higher than 4 stars. Still, overall this was such a quick and enjoyable read and I can't wait to see what else is in store for me when I pick up more of Gurtler's books.
Few YA novels are able to grasp the difficulties and injustices of teenhood while still remaining light and age-appropriate. The Truth About Us tackles painful and sometimes dark real-world struggles—this is no Twilight or Pretty Little Liars—but is still a clean read for younger audiences. Despite its "gripping" content claim, I actually found this a pretty light read. I breezed through it effortlessly; it's one of those books I didn't have to think too deeply about, which is perfect for lounging around with in the upcoming summer months. There are a few things that just didn't click with me, though. My main issue is that I couldn't really connect with the characters, namely Jess (the narrator) and Flynn (the love interest). It isn't that they're necessarily unlikable, but they just seem too flat, too two-dimensional. Gurtler attempts to add emotional complexity and first-world flaws to Jess's ignorant, rather foolish persona, but it seemed rather forced. There are times her compelling vulnerabilities really shine through, but for the most part, her shallow character is randomly peppered with unrelated "insecurities." Half the time, I was irritated by her depressing, undeservedly bleak outlook on life, considering most of her problems could be easily solved if she would just step it up in the maturity game. Jess's past remains a mystery throughout the majority of the first half of the book, which would normally be suspenseful, but quickly became annoying. Throughout, she alludes to two prominent tragedies frequently: the loss of her mother and her best friend (figuratively, not literally)—but when these moments are actually finally revealed, they're very much told, rather than shown! I feel like this rendered the entire conflict void; there was no emotional value or imagery connected to what she kept from readers for so long... an anti-suspense, of sorts. That being said, The Truth About Us isn't completely lacking in redeeming qualities. Many teen romance novels feature a bad boy hero from the "wrong side of the tracks," but with Flynn, it doesn't feel like a YA trope. While his character is also only described on the surface level, I'm definitely impressed with the depth and conviction Gurtler uses to convey the very relevant and very real socioeconomic divide between him and Jess. I also enjoyed how both characters have their own hardships in their lives—whether in the past or present—that raise the stakes in the plot. I have to admit I was disappointed by the romance aspect of this book, but that's because I'm a bit of a romance fanatic. If you're looking for a love story that'll knock you off your feet... The Truth About Us is definitely not the answer. Keep on searching. However, if you want a contemporary teen novel that deals with bigger issues than just the wobbly knees and stomach butterflies, I think you'll get something out of this one. Pros: An easy read; quick to get through // Surprisingly sentimental (in a good way!) and emotional for a light YA novel // Interesting synopsis regarding romance obstructed by class difference Cons: Didn't blow me away stylistically // Some unrealistic, "too fast, too easy" bits, particularly the underdeveloped insta-love // Jess and Flynn both fall flat as characters // Jess's past isn't explored as much as I would have liked // Rushed, stilted ending—overall unsatisfying Verdict: Younger teen audiences will be intrigued by this chaste romance story about what happens when a girl who has everything (at least on the outside), meets a guy who lives the kind of poverty-stricken life she didn't even realize existed. While I had some issues with the superficially characterized protagonists and rather plain writing style, I did appreciate the overall conflict that faces real-life problems about social class, friends, and family, that is accented by tender moments of affection and teen love in between. Rating: 6 out of 10 hearts (3 stars): Decent for a first read, but I'm not going back; this book is decidedly average (whatever that means!).
A great YA romance with lots of heart and layers. Loved Wilf and Kyle as well as Flynn and Jess.