The Truth Project

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Oct. 2020. 400p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062954404.
Gr 8 Up–High schooler Cordelia plans to coast through her senior project, copying her older sister’s idea of taking an ancestry test through GeneQuest, and adding her own spin by exploring the results through her poetry. Cordelia teams up with Kodiak, who’s a friend, crush, and fellow poet. Recently, Kodiak’s life has been troubled: After finding out that a classmate he impregnated was having an abortion, he drunkenly crashed his mother’s car. When work and their project begins and the test reveals that the father she has always known is not her biological father, Cordelia is thrown into emotional turmoil. On a trip to a young poets’ conference in Seattle, Cordelia becomes rebellious, drinking and sneaking off, and she ropes Kodiak into helping her track down her father. Set in Alaska where the author lives, this novel is told through Cordelia’s poetry and her emails and texts to other characters. Cordelia talks at length to other people, a tactic that allows each character to be fully developed. Poetic elements such as rhythm, similes, and metaphors are well done, and the cast is diverse in many ways: Cordelia’s best friend Sana is biracial (one parent is Asian), interested in girls, and lives in a trailer park, and Kodiak’s project focuses on stories from his Tlingit heritage. She develops ways of coping, but the descriptions of Cordelia’s response to Kodiak’s creations are extremely emotionally charged, and readers may struggle to connect.
VERDICT A story about family and identity that will appeal to readers who like novels in verse, or books about artistic teens.

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