Sometimes We Tell the Truth

448p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481464994.
Gr 8 Up—This updated version of The Canterbury Tales is a compelling LGBTQ coming-of-age story. When things get rowdy on a class trip to Washington, DC, English teacher and chaperone Mr. Bailey tells the students they each have a chance at an A—all they have to do is tell a story. Jeff Chaucer, a student on the bus, writes down the tales as they are told and compiles them. Though the frame of the narrative is the same as the classic, between the pieces there are interludes focusing on Jeff, and this is where Zarins's novel really shines. Jeff is a self-conscious writer who just wants to get to DC and see Georgetown, where he is matriculating in the fall. Through hearing his classmates' tales, the protagonist begins to question who he is, what he believes, and whether he is as alone as he thinks. Zarins is adept at giving the students their own voices, making the entries genuinely feel like the product of many different narrators. Each individual selection matches up with a story in The Canterbury Tales, sometimes down to the names of the characters and every plot point. This could frustrate readers of the original, but the more tongue-in-cheek references should keep these teens grinning. For new readers, it should serve as an enticing entry point into the original.
VERDICT An updated version of Chaucer's classic that will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan.

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