Tru is anything but. A midyear transfer into a suburban high school, he’s the mysterious new guy from the ‘hood who has quickly become the class clown and discovered all his teacher’s peeves. Nell, the reticent isolationist who sits nearby, ignores the daily spectacle of Tru’s antics as she writes and sketches in a moleskin and relishes in her seeming-invisibility. They share no connection and have never said a word to one another.
Then Ms. Yashar announces a collaborative senior presentation. Nell looks mortified when she hears she must pair up with a classmate. Tru sees her weary look and, lingering after class, asks Ms. Yashar to pair him up with her to save her the awkward “who doesn’t have a partner yet?” moment in class. He’s used to saving those who need it.
But will Ms. Yashar allow this delinquent to redeem himself with this good deed when the last one landed him in jail?
Tru Untrue by Rachelle Jones Smith is a novel that explores strong social issues, identity, and self-acceptance while navigating the relationship between two strange characters. Tru doesn’t have a very happy past. Transferred midterm, all he wants is to complete his community service. He appears to be bored, disengaged, and unconnected, and he revels in poking fun of the weak spots of Ms. Yashar. Ms. Yashar sees him as someone full of excuses and none of them plausible. Nell sits nearby. She is isolated and not so interested in the “language arts” and spends her time doodling out of boredom. She is stunned when Ms. Yashar informs the class that they will be paired for a senior presentation. No one seems to choose Nell and Tru comes to the rescue. Collaborating on the project takes them on a journey that is both delightful and inspiring.
Tru Untrue is a beautiful story that looks at the lives of two teens living like outcasts. One has a criminal past and the other has suffered enormously from family drama. The connection they establish as they work together on a class project allows them to explore each other’s world and to redefine their own. The narrative is told in a strong voice, alternating between the points of view of the key characters, and the first person narrative allows character depth to come out strongly through the story. Jones Smith’s novel is a quick read that reflects some of the challenges teenagers face as they struggle to navigate a complex social system. Tru Untrue reads with fluidity, with scenes that are focused, and balanced writing. I enjoyed this author’s character handling and the ingenuity in plot development.