Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Annoyed, Ignored, Enjoyed: The True Story of TRUE (…SORT OF)


Katherine Hannigan’s novel True (…sort of) really annoyed me at first. It’s the story of Delly, a girl who gets into all kinds of trouble. That’s not what annoyed me. Instead it’s the fact that Delly constantly makes up words.

Those who’ve read this blog before know that I’m not above trying to create a word out of whole cloth. (See localire.) However, I’ve only tried to make up one word in the past fifty years. Delly’s book comes with its own “Dellydictionary” of invented words. Too cute. Too coy. Too annoying.

I tried banishing True (…sort of) to the bottom of my “books to read” pile. It was easy enough to ignore the book for awhile. True (…sort of) doesn’t exactly demand to be read. It’s not a suspenseful thrill-ride that’s going to pull readers along in spite of themselves.

Although Delly is loud and troublesome, the novel is actually pretty quiet. If you’ve ever submitted a manuscript to an editor or agent and gotten it back, rejected, with the comment “It’s just too quiet,” then you know that this five letter word normally spells death to a story.

However, for all its quietness True (…sort of) was powerfully insistent, even while it sat on the bottom of a pile of books. Whenever I happened to look at the cover, I heard a question: “How many times over the last few years has a girl at the middle school where I work pulled Ida B off the shelf and confided—‘This is my favorite book!!!’?”

You don’t get that many 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to confide in a wizened library lady unless you’ve written one heck of a good book. So I knew Katherine Hannigan had to have hit a home run one with Ida B.

Was True (…sort of) another great book, once the reader got past dellylicious, chizzlehead, and bawlgram?

YES. Because the book kept asking me politely to read it, I finished it—and loved it. It may not be my favorite book of 2011, but it’s one I can recommend to lovers of Ida B. It’s even one that I can hand to readers not quite ready for the darkness of A Monster Calls (my pick for the Printz award) but ready for a story that successfully balances fun with realistic pain and suffering.

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