Title: The Truth about Us by Janet Gurtler
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 320 pages
The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up.
She’s made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she’s paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is.
She pretends it’s all fine. That her “perfect” family is fine. But it’s not. And no one notices the lie…until she meets Flynn. He’s the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens.
The truth is that Jess is falling apart – and no one seems to care.
But Flynn is the definition of “the wrong side of the tracks.” When Jess’s parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don’t get that the person who shouldn’t fit in your world… might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.
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The greenhouse is sort of shaped like an old barn. It’s opaque with plastic and steel siding. The door is open, and I follow Wilf inside and pause and then breathe it in. The smell nourishes me. Moist air fills my lungs. I’ve forgotten how much the scents of greenery soothe me. It reminds me of different times. Simpler times.
“Nice,” I tell him, looking around at rows of plants on tabletops and plants stacked on the floor. I realize I’ve missed the satisfaction of nurturing plants.
There’s a man on a ladder in the middle of the greenhouse, fixing a shelf, with his back to us. A little boy stands at the bottom of the ladder, watching. Wilf walks over and pats his head and kneels down to his level. “How are ya, big guy?”
The little boy stands taller and giggles and holds out his hand. He’s got it wrapped tightly around a plastic blue train.
The man on the ladder turns and looks down at me. My heart stops.
It’s not a man at all. It’s him.
My face burns.
“What are you doing here?” he asks.
Wilf frowns and then looks at me. “What’s up with you kids these days? In my time, we treated nice–looking young ladies with respect,” he says to Flynn gruffly. “Flynn, this is Jess. She volunteers here.”
I say a silent thank–you to him for calling me nice–looking and glance back at Flynn.
“Since when?” he asks.
“Since now. How about, ‘hello, nice to meet you’?” Wilf says to prompt both of us. “Is that so hard?”
“We’ve already met,” Flynn says.
My cheeks stay on fire as he climbs down the ladder.
“The shelf is fixed,” he says to Wilf. “Slumming?” he adds to me as he jumps to the floor. He folds up the ladder and then leans it against a counter lined with plants.
The little boy stares back and forth.
I try to think of something light and witty to save the moment, but my mind is blank. Instead, I panic. “What’d you do to get stuck working at this place?” I say, channeling my inner Nance.
“What’d I do?” He stares at me and then his lips turn up. “I didn’t have the right daddy, I guess. I’m here to have lunch. With my little brother. I’m not a volunteer.”
My stomach drops. Fail. Epic fail.
RITA Award finalist Janet Gurtler’s young adult books have been chosen for the Junior Library Guild Selection and as Best Books For Teens from the Canadian Children’s Book Center. She has had her writing compared to Judy Blume and Jodi Picoult and that makes her happy. She has volunteered at a few soup kitchens and hopes to do more. Giving back is so important. Janet lives in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada, with her husband, son, and a chubby black Chihuahua named Bruce.