The Truth Is

Carolrhoda Lab. Sept. 2019. 272p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781541528772.
Gr 7 Up–Self-described Boricua Verdad, age 15, is a bundle of contradictions—sad and isolated since the murder of her best friend, Blanca, by a racist mass shooter; dryly funny when observing her classmates and family; and prone to blurting out pejorative terms just before or after lightbulb moments about the intersections of identity and privilege. In fact, Ramos has created a voice so authentic it may surprise readers used to teen characters sounding and acting like adults. The plot unfolds fast, with Verdad meeting and falling for sexy new student Danny (who is transmasculine) the same week she’s involved in a poorly supervised classroom activity-turned-melee that results in the unfair expulsion of a Black classmate. Within days of realizing she may be queer, or questioning, or pansexual, Verdad leaves home, joining Danny and his culturally diverse band of friends, all queer and homeless. If this seems like a lot, it is, before even considering Verdad’s burgeoning awareness of her OCD and PTSD or several sub-plots involving familial backstories. There are some well-realized and brief sex scenes, and flashbacks to the shooting are handled sensitively. Some aspects of the ending are a bit logistically neat, and not every character in the large cast feels fully realized. However, Ramos succeeds in portraying early adolescence in visceral emotional detail.
VERDICT Ramos writes with intensity and poeticism in this fresh, painful, but ultimately optimistic coming-of-age novel. Notable for its up-to-the minute depiction of gender identity, sexual orientation, and race

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