The Size of the Truth

272p. S. & S. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534419551.
Gr 5–8—In his imaginative, though at times flimsy, middle grade debut, Smith explores the backstory of Sam Abernathy, who first appeared in the 2015 YA novel Stand-Off. Seven years after falling into an abandoned well, 11-year-old Sam Abernathy can't shake his reputation around town as "Well Boy," especially now that he is in the same class as James Jenkins, who was partially to blame for the well incident. On top of that, Sam is stuck living the life his parents have planned for him, and Sam's desire to become a chef is nowhere in their blueprints. As Sam seizes an opportunity to make his cooking dreams come true, he begins to piece together recollections of the past that change the way he sees his own life and the people in it. Though Sam is a likeable character, readers may struggle to find the depiction of him as a four-year-old believable. Sam's inner thoughts as well as his dialogue with Bartleby, the sassy armadillo whose role throughout Sam's life remains unclear, are more typical of a young teenager than a small child. Still, Smith manages to deliver a unique story with moments that are both endearing and humorous. Readers may appreciate seeing two young male characters who defy the expectations for masculinity set by the people around them in favor of pursuing their true passions.
VERDICT Though it fails to reach its full potential, this is a feel-good story with a quirky edge that will leave readers with a smile.

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