The Thing About the Truth is one of those books that swing back and forth between the present and the past. Had I read it as an absurd text, I might have had greater appreciation for it but I doubt that was anywhere near Barnholdt’s intention.
In this humorous love story from the author of “Two-Way Street”, an unlikely romance is the best sort of surprise—but the wrong secret can ruin everything. Kelsey’s not going to let one mistake ruin her life. Sure, she got kicked out of prep school and all her old friends are shutting her out. But Kelsey’s focused on her future, and she’s determined to get back on track at Concordia High.
Isaac’s been kicked out of more schools than he can count. Since his father’s a state senator, Isaac’s life is under constant scrutiny—but Concordia High’s his last stop before boarding school, so Isaac’s hoping to fly under the radar and try to stay put for a change.
When Kelsey and Isaac meet, it’s anything but love at first sight. She thinks he’s an entitled brat, and he thinks she’s a stuck-up snob. So it surprises them both when they start to fall for each other. Kelsey’s happy for the first time in months, and Isaac’s never felt this way about anyone before. But nothing’s ever completely perfect. Everyone has secrets, and Isaac and Kelsey are no exceptions. These two may have fallen hard, but there’s one thing that can ruin it all: the truth.
Stuck in the present, we glimpse Kelsey and Isaac in the office of the school superintendent, where they each recount what happened. Even though the story is told from a dual point-of-view between the two of them, there also is an alternation between ‘The Aftermath‘ and ‘Before’, amounting to four different narrative strands to keep track of.
The alternating points of view didn’t bother me so much. What bothered me was that the whole book was set in the present. I understand that the present is supposed to be more immediate to help teenagers connect more easily. That made a lot of sense too in the context of ‘The Aftermath’ but it made no sense for ‘Before’ because it clearly was the basis of the recounts from Kelsey from Isaac. Perhaps grammar of that sort won’t bother most and some won’t even notice but for me this was a glaring discrepancy, which hampered my enjoyment of the book.
Nonetheless, I think The Thing About the Truth worked because it was already apparent from the beginning that both protagonists were in trouble. That gave more room to focus on them as characters and their motivations. In a way, it slowed down the book because it wasn’t so plot-driven anymore. Of course, plot did matter to see how they ended up in the superintendent’s office in the first place but in the end, the why took a more central position than the what.
If you’re a reader who enjoys day-to-day type of stories, you are likely to enjoy The Thing About the Truth, especially if you’re looking for romance weaved into it. That is, if a neat and happy ending is not of primary importance to you. Open endings that don’t tie up all the loose ends are more true to life anyway.