Hello humans! Today I’m reviewing a book that is a little out of my comfort zone. If you’re new to the blog, my comfort zone is 100% YA science fiction and fantasy, so to venture into the realm of reality is more than a little strange for me. However, I do like stepping out of my box every now and then and it has meant I’ve read many a good YA contemporary. I think the last time I reviewed anything that could be construed as a thriller was when I read There’s Someone Inside Your House which draws more on horror than thriller. So, in the interest of pushing myself, I thought I would try out a YA mystery thriller and All of This Is True seemed like a good place to start.
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.
Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.
Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .
Find All of This Is True on Goodreads
Content warning: manipulation, discussion of a sexual abuse scandal, bullying.
In my notes for this book, I’ve written (amongst other things) “this book is strange and uncomfortable” which is entirely true. It sounds very negative, but I can’t say I enjoyed reading this book because it isn’t enjoyable to read about characters being manipulated and in some ways emotionally abused. However, this book was engaging from the start, the multiple points of view made the story play out in many ways and you get the sense of mystery and intrigue that the title belies.
Part of the reason this book is so timely is in the context of the world as we know it today and the publishing world where certain allegations of inappropriate (and/or illegal) behaviour are being brought to light. The dangers of idolising individuals have never been more apparent and this book pulls one potential scenario out into a harrowing tale of misplaced trust. They say never meet your heroes, and this book just proves it.
This is a very meta story, at one point you’ve got characters within a book, referred to within a book that is itself in a book. Those layers could get a little confusing, but I think it adds to the general question of what is true (what is the truth?) within this book. There are so many conflicting ideas and storylines that as a reader you must pick apart the words within the dialogue and work out what you think is the truth. The way these stories are told (a fiction book, serialised diary entries and recorded interviews) also adds to that sense of things not quite being told as they were. It is through the contradictions between the different stories that you begin to piece together what might have happened.
So, you can see, by how hard a time I’m having writing about it, that this is a complicated book. To add to that, it also has complicated characters. At first, I was utterly convinced that the girls in this book were the most inane teenagers that could ever have existed and I wasn’t overly fussed by what happened to them. However, as the degree to which they were manipulated starts to become apparent, you do gain a new appreciation for the subtleties of their characters. Again, the way the story is told is important. Through little asides in interviews you can see through the façade the character is presenting, adding a dimension that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
As I say, I don’t have a huge amount of experience for this genre, and someone who has read a greater number of thrillers than me might have a completely different experience. While I won’t say I enjoyed the book because it’s a difficult subject to explore, I was engaged throughout and it certainly drew me in.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Are there other thrillers I ought to read? Let me know in the comments below!