To Be Honest

To Be Honest

by Maggie Ann Martin


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The author of The Big F is back with another snappy, utterly relatable contemporary young adult novel about loving yourself and forging your own path, perfect for fans of Julie Murphy and Jennifer Niven.

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her big sister—and best friend—goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she'll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn't count on is that her mother's obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy's mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom's diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

To Be Honest is another sharp, witty novel from Maggie Ann Martin, about a spunky heroine who is dealing with very real issues—body image, parental pressure, loneliness, first love, and finding your way—with heart and humor.

Praise for To Be Honest:

"Savvy’s story is a welcome one in today’s YA market and will help spread a much-needed message to teens about parental mental health issues and the potential dangers of diet culture. A first purchase for libraries serving adolescents." —School Library Journal, starred review

"This summer read tackles difficult subjects—anxiety and mental health, eating disorders, and more—while still keeping it a light and fun story about all kinds of love: parental, sibling, friendship, romantic, and most importantly, loving yourself." —Bustle

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250309198
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 08/20/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 468,546
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 8.34(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Maggie Ann Martin, author of The Big F and To Be Honest, hails from Des Moines, Iowa, but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge-watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet.

Read an Excerpt


I'd never seen so much chevron in my life. We slowly unpacked all my sister's belongings in her small, dingy dorm room, and I wondered how it would ever feel homey. Right now it reminded me of a glorified prison cell with a set of worn-down loft beds and a free-standing sink in the corner. The cement floor was not helping in my sister's attempt to make the room prison-chic. Apparently they were redoing the floors and ran out of budget/time to put in new carpets for this year. Lucky Ash.

I helped her put the sheets on her loft bed (not an easy task, might I add) and we giggled as her corner boinked off and smacked her in the nose. Thank goodness for these moments when we could laugh, when we could forget what was going to happen in a few hours. Forget that I would be living without my sister and best friend for the first time in seventeen years.

No matter how many times Ashley tried to broach the subject of her leaving this summer, I would always turn my head and plug my ears. I couldn't bear it then and suggested that we push off any sad or mushy conversations to the very last minute. I was a professional procrastinator in all things. Especially feelings.

"You put the bug liner on the mattress before the sheets, right, girls?" Mom asked, looking from a long list she'd printed out from one of her favorite mommy blogs.

"No bugs getting in this fortress," I said, smacking the bed. The force of my hand smack caused another corner of the fitted sheet to snap out from under the mattress, and Ashley scowled at me.

"I told you we should have gotten the extra-long sheets," Mom said.

"That's a waste of money. We had plenty of working twin sheets already," Ashley said. Always the practical one, she was. Ashley's brain was constantly in conservation mode while mom's brain was always in excess mode. Especially in the past two years, after Mom and Dad's divorce, Ashley has had to be the voice of reason in our home.

"The list said extra-long," Mom mumbled.

Ashley huffed after fixing the sheet once more, and we both climbed down from the loft. I offered to wind her twinkle lights around the base of the bed while she and Mom tag-teamed getting the minifridge up and running. Who knew you could have a teal mini-fridge with coral flowers? Only Ashley would up-cycle our cousin's old, beaten-up minifridge to make it beautiful. She was going to film school, after all. It was kind of in her blood to be incredibly creative.

As Mom and Ashley exchanged a few heated words while trying to find an extension cord to keep the fridge in the "perfect feng shui location" of the room, I unwrapped the photos she packed. One was of her and me at summer camp the year that we were finally in the same cabin. We both slept in the bottom bunk that year because Ashley was afraid of heights and I was prone to falling out of the bed. I didn't mind, though. You can't quite explain the comfort of knowing your sister is close by.

The next was of our dog, correction, her dog, Fiyero. He earned his name during Ashley's obsession with the musical Wicked. Our family lived and breathed all things Wicked for the entirety of Ashley's eighth-grade year. The poodle baby in the picture looked like a stuffed teddy bear. Now Fiyero was a fifty-pound hellion who had a particular fondness for finding and eating makeup. I'd lost many a lipstick to the Fiyero monster.

The last picture was of Ashley, my dad, and me. We were in Hollywood doing a tour of Universal Studios because Ashley had just caught her movie bug. She was probably twelve, making me eleven. We posed in front of the Gilmore Girls town of Stars Hollow and we were laughing our heads off. Most likely, Dad let out a fake fart noise right before the count of three, and we lost it. On the other side of the camera I could imagine Mom's disapproving face. Mom always refused to be in the pictures.

We worked in a scared silence, taking a few moments longer to complete each task than necessary. If we admitted that we were done, we'd have to admit that it was time to leave. I don't think Mom had good-bye on her epic list of dorm move-in responsibilities. No matter how many blogs she read or careful notes she took, nothing could prepare us for leaving.

"So when does your roommate get here?" I asked.

Ashley clapped her hands as the fridge hummed to life and she turned to me, taking the Universal Studios picture out of my hand.

"I think this afternoon. She lives in Kentucky, so it's a bit of a drive."

"Kentucky? They eat everything fried there, don't they? You'll have to be careful that you keep your healthy habits up while you're here," Mom said.

"I'm not sure that it's okay to generalize an entire group of people's eating habits based on a fast-food chain that happens to mention their state," I said.

"My metabolism hasn't changed in the last eighteen years. I'll be fine, Mom," Ashley said. I envied the way that she could brush her off so quickly. Of course she could. Her entire life she'd been tall and slender, while I'd inherited the complete opposite body type.

Mom brought up a single finger, her telltale sign that you were about to get into an argument, but then she put it down. Almost like she remembered that we were here to drop off her oldest daughter for her freshman year of college and now wouldn't be the most convenient time for a fight.

"And she's bringing the futon?" she asked instead.

"I think she put one on hold at the Target nearby so she doesn't have to lug it up here with her. Don't worry, she sent me options and we mutually agreed on one," Ashley said.

"Because nothing can be left up to chance," I teased.

"There's nothing wrong with knowing how you like things," she said. "Plus, the first one she was looking at was way overpriced. I actually saved her a ton of money."

"I'll make sure to call you if I'm ever in the market for a futon," I said.

"You'll just use mine, silly," she said.

I sighed, twisting one of the bulbs that was winking out on the twinkle lights. "I was joking."

"Oh yeah, right," she said, grabbing on to her head. "Sorry. I'm all out of whack today. My funny-o-meter is broken."

"Only temporarily. It works best when you're settled and comfortable," I said.

"Will I ever be?" she asked. She finally took a moment to stop her hurried frenzy of setting things up to take in the room. Her breath became ragged, and I watched her eyes focus and unfocus. Seeing her panic in this way, seeing the mix of emotions racing through her, made my own stomach clench. We always joked that we were twins separated by almost twelve months, always in sync with each other in ways that were out of normal sister territory. Unfortunately, the months between our births robbed us of telepathy and the whole looking-alike thing. Physically, we are as opposite as it comes. She's tall and lanky with muddy-colored hair, where I'm short and chubby, my hair almost white it's so blond. About the only part that maybe hereditarily blessed both of us was bad eyesight. We can almost wear each other's prescription contacts.

I reached out to pull her into a very comforting (and comfortable) hug. We had the perfect builds for a great hug.

"Of course you will, honey," Mom said, joining our hug. She rested her cheek on the top of my head and we stayed this way for who knows how long until Ashley learned her first lesson about living in the dorms: If you wanted to have a private moment without someone bursting in to say hello, keep your door closed ... and probably lock it, for good measure.

"Oh, yikes, I'm sorry," the girl at the door said. She had her hair pulled up in a messy bun that was leaning haphazardly to one side of her head. "I was just wondering if you had any extra duct tape that I could borrow? A cord on my microwave frayed. Don't tell the RA or whatever, because it might be a fire hazard, but I definitely don't have time or cash to get a new one. That's too much information. BLAH. Hi. My name is Yael."

"Hey," Ashley said, pulling away from our hug. "I'm Ashley. This is my little sister, Savannah, and my mom."

"Kim," Mom interjected.

"Nice to meet you all," Yael said. Her fingers tapped against the doorframe as she waited for something, anything to happen while we all stared at her. I turned to Ashley for a moment and tried to send her a telepathic "Grab the damn duct tape!" but she didn't catch my drift.

"Ash, you have some duct tape in the top drawer, right?" I asked, putting everyone out of their awkward misery.

"Oh! Yeah. Yes, I do," she said, breaking out of her stupor and grabbing the tape. She dropped it into Yael's open palm.

"You're seriously a lifesaver. See you around, Ashley," she said.

Ashley watched Yael skip down the hallway until I coughed to get her attention again. Ashley whipped around and started quickly unpacking more of her clothes. I smiled a little to myself. She thought Yael was cute.

"Well, are you both going to help?" she asked, her face still a light shade of red.

"We're all yours," Mom said. "I'll start folding sweaters. Savvy, can you load the sock and undies drawer? Do you need me to show you my sock-folding trick again?" "I've got it under control," I said.

We worked in silence until every last bit of her clothes were meticulously placed in her closet and drawers. We rearranged the few knickknacks she'd allowed herself to bring and weighed the options of moving the fridge to the other side of the room at least three times. It was slowly reaching that point where we realized we were no longer needed in this dorm room, which meant an awful and painful good-bye was in my very near future.

"So," she said. "This is it."

"I guess so," Mom said. "Jeez, I'm glad they put waterproof mascara as a must-have on that list."

Mom pulled her into a bear hug, her head barely reaching Ashley's collarbone. Ashley leaned down to plant a kiss on her cheek and pulled away, wiping a stray tear from her cheek.

"I love you, Chicken," Mom said. "I think I just have to leave the room now before I become a complete mess. I'll meet you outside, Savvy, okay?"

I nodded, feeling the lump in my throat starting to block my airways. As Mom walked out of the room, both of our dissolves crumbled. We pulled each other into a tight hug, our bodies shaking as we cried. We'd never been apart for more than a week at a time, when she went to film camp a few summers in a row. Even those weeks were tough. I couldn't imagine months without her.

"We'll Skype all the time," she said. "We'll have sister check-ins throughout the day just like normal. The only thing that will change is that we won't be in the same room anymore."

"Is that supposed to make it better?" I said.

"I know things have been rough with you and Mom lately. Cut her a little slack, okay? She's gone through a lot of huge life changes this past year and is adjusting. I'll come home and visit as often as I can, but I won't be there anymore to be your buffer. Pick your battles, Savvy, okay?" she said.

I nodded. "I'll try to be better."

She held me by my shoulders and forced me to look into her eyes. "You're stronger than you know. Don't you ever forget that, no matter how tough things might get. And, it's not like I'm across the country. I'm only a few hours away if you ever need me."

I nodded again, curling into her for one last hug. When we pulled away it felt final. I felt like a part of me had been severed and I was leaving it behind. Like Cinderella's glass slipper, but if her leg was still attached. I decided that, like Mom, if I looked back again I would never leave. So I opened the door and closed it quickly behind me. I took my mom's hand and we walked down the hallway, down the flight of stairs, and to the car, where we cried for a good fifteen minutes before hitting the road again.


It had been exactly two days, thirteen hours, and thirty-four minutes since we left Ashley at Indiana State, and I was itching to get out of the house and away from my mom's sole attention. We'd already prepared healthy prep meals that we could freeze and eat for the next month, and if I had to dice one more carrot or make one more pot of rice, I would most definitely scream.

Thankfully, I'd already made plans with my best friend, Grace, to go to her family's summer cookout slash family field day in the park. Each year, the Morenos from around the Midwest came and joined for this day of fun (and sibling rivalry). I was mostly there for a chance to see her cousin Mateo ... and hang out with Grace, of course.

Fiyero the poodle monster rested his chin on the side of my bed, rumbling a low, guttural growl, alerting me it was time to get up and play with him. I groaned as I rolled over and grabbed his fluffy face between my hands.

"Now that Ashley isn't here you have to resort to me, huh?" I asked.

Fiyero cocked his head like he was trying to understand me. His tongue, which was always a little too big for his mouth, flopped to the side and I barked out an early-morning laugh.

"You're lucky you're cute," I said.

As I stood up, Fiyero started bouncing around the room excitedly and then raced down the hallway and down the stairs. Much to my surprise, I heard Mom yelp "Fiyero!" from the bottom of the stairs. Usually Mom sleeps in until noon on the weekends, but today she was already up and stretching in the living room. Her hands contorted in weird angles behind her back and she listened to the soft hum of Lady Gaga, her workout music of choice.

"Want to join me and Fiyero on a run this morning?" she asked without turning around. My tiptoeing obviously failed me.

"As fun as that sounds ..." I trailed off.

"The first step to a healthier life is making a commitment," she rattled off. I kept a mental tally of the thinspiration mantras she preached to me throughout the day. This one was at about two times a day.

"I inherited my commitment issues from Dad, obviously," I said.

I regretted saying it as soon as it came out. We tried not to talk about the Dad Debacle of Sophomore Year when he cheated on Mom with one of her friends. Should friends be in quotation marks in that context? Yes. Her "friend" slept with my dad for about a year before he slipped up, leaving his phone charging on the kitchen counter and leaving message previews open for a naive sophomore me to find. Adult sexting is disgusting.

"Oh, Savannah," she said, shaking her head with both of her hands firmly on her hips. It was a pose reserved for her times of greatest disappointment.

"Sorry, Mom," I said. "I have to head over to Grace's. She's having the Moreno family reunion thing this afternoon. Um, did you want to come, too?"

She shook her head. "No, thanks, sweetie. I'm heading over to the gym this afternoon. You have fun, though. Be sure to tell Maria thank you."

Her statement felt a little like a judgment. Like, You have fun while I improve my mind, body, and spirit at the gym without you. Most things out of her mouth sounded like a personal attack on me lately.

"I will. See you tonight," I said, heading into the kitchen.

"Do you want to heat up one of our frozen meals before you go? You don't need all the extra carbs that come with the grill-out food, especially the buns," she said.

My whole body flushed red like it did every time she tried to restrict my food. I remembered Ashley's plea to keep the peace while she was gone, and swallowed the anger that bubbled up inside of me.

"I'll be sure to heat one up before I leave, Mom," I lied. "Have fun at the gym."

Normally on Sunday mornings, Ashley would be up and making breakfast. She'd make secret pancakes and bacon before Mom could wake up and tell us how many calories we were wasting on breakfast. We'd lounge on the couch and watch episodes of whatever show we were bingeing and practically become one with the couch before Mom woke up at noon. Maybe Mom woke up early so that I wouldn't feel so alone. Even though it made me feel a little better, the giant hole in our home dynamic expanded two sizes.

I listened to the soft rhythm of Mom's feet hitting the floor as she did her warm-up routine. I'd become accustomed to this sound over the past year. After Mom and Dad's divorce, Mom tailspinned into a shame spiral. She started making changes to every aspect of her life — anything to get her out of the "rut" she'd been in all those years with Dad. One night, she saw a call for audition tapes for the weight-loss reality TV show Shake the Weight and conned Ashley into helping her film a tape. Thinking nothing would come of it and being willing to do anything to make Mom happy in those months, Ashley helped her out.

About a month later, on Mother's Day, Mom got a call that she'd need to fly out to LA for a screen test with other potential contestants. Two weeks later, she was packing a bag to move out to LA and we were packing our bags to stay with Dad and Sheri for the next two months.


Excerpted from "To Be Honest"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Maggie Ann Martin.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel & Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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To Be Honest 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
mdemanatee More than 1 year ago
This book was fresh and fun while tackling issues about body image and self esteem. I love that Savannah got to be confident and insecure; she got to be a complicated, real teen. The family dynamics in this are raw and honest. And band geek George is just so much fun.
BookFidelity More than 1 year ago
This book was not what I thought it was going to be. It was better. I started reading To Be Honest expecting a love story with the back drop of the issues of a fat girl. Since I am a fat girl (woman. whatever.), I was curious as to how the protagonist's size would be treated. Big people are not usually written about, and when we are written about - we usually hate ourselves etc. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book did not follow the formula I usually find in other stories. Beware - spoilers. Savvy is having some difficulty because her sister, who is also her best friend, is going off to college - leaving her behind with the shadow of her mother. Their mother had been a part of a weight-loss show that appears to have had a less than healthy effect on her and the family. Aside from that, Savvy is busy focusing on her journalism efforts with her other, non sister best friend, Grace, and trying to figure out what is going on between her and Grace's cousin, George. Instead of the focus being on Savvy's would-be love life, the focus was actually on Savvy herself. The author focused on the struggles Savvy has with her mother who back-handedly insults Savvy's body, the disappointment of having a father who prioritizes his new wife over his daughter, the adjustment of having her sister at college, and THEN comes the trouble with how George feels about her. Through all these experiences, we get to know Savvy - the anxiety and panic she feels in certain situations, how she actually loves how she looks, but is cut down by comments her mother makes, or when she thinks about how her best friend is treated differently because of their size difference. Not once does Savvy turn bitter at the women around her for them being smaller than she is. Savvy's concern for her mother is more about her mother's moods and overall health than any kind of jealousy. Savvy has also learned to be strong - maybe too strong that is translating as too tough to be around, something Grace helps her to see. Then after everything we have George. He is adorable as he is infuriating. Once he explains himself, it makes more sense - but I don't blame you if you want to smack him in the meantime. I know I did. All in all - I was surprised when I turned the last page (not knowing it was the last page) to find the story had ended. This was not because the author failed to write a well-rounded story, no, it was because I wanted to learn more about Savvy - especially after her receiving validation from her family, George, and herself. The only downfall for me about this story is that some things were wrapped up together too quickly, like the journalism project and Savvy's decision to possibly attend school for journalism. I was totally for that direction - I just thought she accepted it a bit too quickly for an anxious person haha (did I mention I also have anxiety?).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
3.5/5 CW: For eating disorders & anxiety mentions This was a super cute and fun story. I wish I had just sat down and read it in one sitting rather than spreading out over a week. This book has family dynamics, self love, and a super cute relationship. It is also very humorous and the references are modern. It feels like how teens of today talk (at least on the internet because I don't hang out with teens). My favorite part of this book was George and Savannah's banter. It was witty, fun, and super cute. At some parts I was physically smiling at my phone while I was reading it. They also were equals and had their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Savannah is great at math, while George is a great musician. They are both so supportive of each other's gifts. I will say that the plot is very focused around the school setting and if that is something you are not interested in, this might not be for you. I also found the overall plot to be a bit messy, the journalism plot is mentioned in the beginning, but doesn't heat up until the end and Savannah's anxiety is mentioned the in the beginning, but is rarely mentioned after. *Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review*
Alliemikenna More than 1 year ago
I generally judge a book's quality by whether it makes me feel something, and this one made me laugh out loud dozens of times & cry twice: both markers of a resoundingly great read. I loved every minute of this book; once I picked it up I had to read it all the way through. Savvy's character is extremely relatable and easy to connect with, and I wish more books with characters like her had been around when I grew up. Maggie perfectly captures the feelings of a high school girl in a non cliche way. The book has the perfect amount of drama and charm. It took a couple chapters to really get into the story, but once it picked up, it really soared. If you love young adult fiction, then this book is one to add to your to-read list ASAP.