Title: The Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Suspense
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
“I tied you up because I need you to listen,” Derek says. “Focus.”
“Please… W-what do you want from me?”
“The truth,” he says. “About what happened the night my brother died.” He reaches for my left hand. “If I think you’re lying…” With his other hand, he flourishes a pair of flower cutters. Curved. Sharp.
And he smiles.
When Chris wakes up in a dark basement tied to a chair, he knows that he’s trapped-and why. Eight nights ago a burglar broke into Chris’ home. Eight nights ago Chris did what he had to do to protect his family. And eight nights ago a 13-year-old runaway bled to death on his kitchen floor.
Now Derek wants the truth about what happened that night. He wants proof his little brother didn’t deserve to die. For every lie Chris tells, he will lose a finger. But telling the truth is far more dangerous…
A riveting, edge-of-your-seat thriller from Edgar Award-nominated author Jeffry W. Johnston that explores the gray area between what is right and what we’ll do to protect the people we love.
The Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston is a suspense-laden young adult mystery about a teenager kidnapped and forced to recount the events of the night he shot and killed an intruder.
Eight days after killing thirteen year old Caleb Brannick, Chris Russo is kidnapped by Caleb’s older brother Derek who just wants the truth about what happened the night Caleb died. Convinced the police planted evidence, Derek threatens to cut off Chris’s finger with garden shears if he does not fully co-operate with his demands. Over the course of several hours, Chris recounts the details from the night he and his ten year old brother Devon confronted an armed assailant in the kitchen of their home.
By all appearances, Chris is a devoted older brother who stepped in and became the “man of the house” after his policeman father was killed in the line of duty three years earlier. He takes care of Devon while their mother is working and the boys are extremely close. Although not a sports fan, Chris helps Devon with baseball practice and he, along with their mother, cheer the youngster on during his baseball games. Chris is quiet and unassuming but after he shoots Caleb, he becomes a bit of a local hero although he tries his best to remain out of the spotlight.
A year older than Chris, Derek has had few brushes with the law and he has, in fact, been recently released from a stint in juvie. While still serving his sentence, Caleb ran away from home despite Derek’s pleas to him to stay put until his release. Their home life was incredibly dysfunctional and Derek is still trying to move past the abuse inflicted by their parents. His motives for demanding the truth about the night of Caleb’s death remain a little murky and Chris (along with the reader) cannot help but wonder what will happen when/if Derek is satisfied that Chris has been completely honest with him.
The events of the preceding days are revealed through flashbacks from Chris’s point of view. The transitions from present to past are clearly marked and easy to follow. Derek pushes for honesty about all areas of Chris’s life and although reluctant, Chris is forced to discuss the events surrounding his father’s death which in turn leads to some very probing questions (and reluctant admissions) about his relationship with his dad. Chris also pushes Derek to be honest about his relationship with his own family and he, too, is forced to admit some very uncomfortable truths of his own.
The Truth is an extremely fast-paced and enthralling young adult novel with an unusual but fascinating storyline. Jeffry W. Johnston does an excellent job keeping readers off balance with unexpected plot twists and surprising confessions from both Chris and Derek. The novel comes to a pulse-pounding and dramatic conclusion that is, for the most part, satisfying. An excellent novel that I recommended to readers of all ages.