review: nothing but the truth by dick lehr

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Title: Nothing But The Truth

Author: Dick Lehr

Publisher: Walker Books

Release Date: January 3rd 2019

Pages: 336


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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Nothing But The Truth follows fourteen-year-old Van Trell Taylor on her quest to clear her father’s name after he was tried and imprisoned for the murder of a young girl when Trell was a baby. This is based off a true story and a true crime that Dick Lehr helped to bring to the public attention when he worked for the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team.

Dick Lehr’s experience is clear in the details of the story. Both the specifics of reporting and the legality of trying to get someone’s sentence overturned is shown clearly from the beginning of the book. It was something I enjoyed quite a bit whilst reading this book.

Lehr’s writing style is easy to read and therefore quick – I read about 100 pages in one sitting when I first started reading and then finished the rest in another. Interest in seeing how the story will develop added to this ease and keeps you reading.

I enjoyed the characters in Nothing But The Truth. Whether they were main or side characters, they each have their own story, own perspectives of one event and Lehr does successfully manage to tell each one throughout the course of this book. Trell reacts to each one – they help build her understanding and perspective of her life now and of the crime itself.

Trell herself was an engaging character – she was sympathetic to read about and empathetic to those she encountered in the story. She is single-minded in her determination to free her father and I found that helped carry me through the story – I wanted her to succeed and for her to finally get her dad home. I also enjoyed her relationship with Clemons, the reporter, and how they interacted in an almost father-daughter way as they investigated and uncovered evidence for their big story. Nora, the hardass young lawyer, was an awesome character, although I do wish there was more said about her across the book.

I had some issues with Trell’s voice. She is a fourteen-year-old girl but doesn’t sound like one. Most of the time she read as any other main character in a YA novel, but there were points where she sounded so much older (when she referred to her enjoyment of running as a “work out”) and others a lot younger (when she called an informer a “tattletale”). It isn’t a major thing, it didn’t stop me from completing or being entertained by how the story unfolds but when it did occur, it did draw me from the overall narrative.

Although I am aware that this is Dick Lehr’s first young adult book and he is not a fourteen-year-old girl, so I can’t hold it against him.

The only other issue I found was how lenient Trell’s mother was about letting her run around with a reporter in places that the story says are dangerous, with gang violence and shootings and drug misuse. I feel like the story would have benefited if Trell was a little older and if she was doing this with a lot more conflict with her parents, as they don’t want anything to happen to her.

Overall though, I did enjoy Nothing But The Truth. It was difficult to put down because I wanted to know how the story ended and was a very easy read despite the topic. It is an important book that raises questions about the American legal systems view of finality and the concept of guilt, as well as showing the effect that can ripple through the lives of many people. It also raised my awareness of horrible crime, another person who was wrongly convicted and a little girl who sadly died.

It is a book about injustice from a different perspective, aimed towards a younger audience that tells an important story. I would like to read Dick Lehr’s next young adult book and see how he develops his writing in this genre!

Have you read Nothing But The Truth? What did you think? If you haven’t, has this review made you want to pick the book up or not? Let me know what you think in the comments!

happy reading

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