Everything Sad Is Untrue: (A True Story)

Levine Querido. Aug. 2020. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781646140008.
Gr 4-8– Nayeri weaves stories within stories in this fictionalized account of his formative years. He shares layers of rich information about life in Iran, refugee camps, and his experiences as an immigrant in the United States during the late 20th century. The themes of family, love, and truth are as strong as those of faith, endurance, memory, and storytelling as Khosrou (also known as Daniel) tries to tell the tales of his beautiful, complicated life and family. Nayeri provides clues about other characters without overexplaining them. Tough issues are discussed, particularly domestic violence, bullying, and life as a refugee and an immigrant, but there is levity, too. Khosrou’s thoughts on Manwich sloppy joe sauce, using toilets in the U.S., and his father’s overindulgence in Twinkies all lighten this tale. Without being didactic, the text communicates the universality of the human experience and the lack of empathy shown by some, not all, of those he encounters in the U.S. and in the refugee environments. The strongest developed characters are Daniel and his mother; however, readers experience varying levels of complexities of other characters like Daniel’s father, stepfather, sister, teacher, and his friends (and enemies).
VERDICT At once beautiful and painful, this timely story is highly recommended for middle grade readers.

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