Thursday, September 22, 2016

Truth or Dare by Barbara Dee, 2016

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A few white lies during a simple game of truth or dare spin out of control and make life very complicated for Lia in this brand-new novel from Barbara Dee.
When Lia returns after a summer with her eccentric aunt, it feels like everything has changed within her group of five friends. Everyone just seems more…dramatic. And after playing a game of Truth or Dare, Lia discovers how those divides are growing wider, and tells a few white lies about what really happened over the summer in order to “keep up.” But is “keeping up” with her BFFs really worth it?

(256 pages)

When I got an email from Barbara Dee asking me if I wanted to review her latest novel, I was absolutely thrilled. I'd only read one of her books before - the amazing Solving Zoe - but I'd loved it so much that I can't believe I never looked up Dee's other books. That's why I jumped at the chance to read Truth or Dare, even though I probably normally would have said no - I figured, just this once, I could read a book about girls going through puberty and trust in the author that it wouldn't be cringe-worthy.

And you know what? I was right to say yes; I was happy to read Truth or Dare. I enjoyed it. The puberty drama was mixed in with much more serious storylines about grief, parental relationships, peer relationships, and bullying. Lia and her friends play truth or dare, sure, and Lia lies about hitting milestones that she hasn't. But the reason for this isn't just some lame one-upmanship game - instead it's the result of a complex cocktail of emotions and social politics.

I will say, though, that I never once competed with my friends in this arena the way Lia does. Heck, it never even came up! With that in mind, maybe the girls' obsession with puberty isn't exactly the most realistic thing in the world to me, but I'm willing to turn on my suspension of disbelief and accept this as the compelling, meaningful story that it is. Because Lia's dealing with some really hard things in her life: she's still trying to move past her mother's death, she's struggling to see her (rather eccentric) aunt as a mother figure, she's trying to one-up her friends because they're slightly cliquey and she's terrified of being left behind. These and many more storylines intertwine themselves throughout the book, grounding it. Making it feel real, and honest, and true-to-life even when the troubles Lia's dealing with aren't ones that I can personally relate to.

I'm not going to recommend this book to "anyone and everyone," because I don't think it would do well with such a broad audience. Most boys would be turned off by the mentions of bras and periods; some girls who actually are Lia's age might get the wrong idea about what sort of emphasis to place on the milestones of puberty. But for the rest of us, Truth or Dare is a good book. If you've read this far and you're sitting there thinking it looks cool, then I can almost guarantee that Truth or Dare will be a great book for you.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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