The Truth Commission

Hilarious, powerful, and deep. The Truth Commission by Susan Juby is one of those rare books that makes you want to forget what you read, just so that you can read it again and again.

Normandy Pale goes to an art school in Nanaimo. She knows that she was only accepted there because of her sister; the infamous Keira Pale, author of the graphic novel series, the Diana Chronicles, in the hope that she also has some of those talented genes. Despite that, Normandy has made a life for herself, everything is going relatively fine for her until her sister suddenly comes back from college with no explanation. It wouldn’t be much of a problem for other families, but ever since the first Diana Chronicle was published, Normandy has had a complicated relationship with her sister, that is if she has had any relationship with her at all.

Why? The Diana Chronicle’s supporting characters are Normandy and her parents. The graphic novel series are inspired by incidents that happened in her family, none of which are flattering, and all of which are exaggerated. Normandy hates the distorted version of herself and her family in the Diana Chronicles, but can do nothing about it, not when her parents are happy to pretend that it doesn’t matter. Needless to say, when Keira moves back in, the entire family is on tiptoes, trying not to do anything embarrassing enough to be featured in the Chronicles, while at the same time trying to provide the very picky environment Keira needs to finish working on her latest book.

On top of all this, Normandy and her two best friends Dusk and Neil, after having confronted a classmate about her plastic surgery, decide to form a Truth Commission. “The truth will set you free,” they claim, and with that begins their mission to discover and confront their classmates’ and teachers’ secrets, not for the purpose of juicy gossip, but simply because living a lie isn’t something anyone should have to do. After their first few successes, the Truth Commissioners are on a roll. But when a truth hits too close to home, even the Truth Commissioners know that some lines just aren’t meant to be crossed…

This book was an absolute joy to read. First, it’s set in Nanaimo and I personally love it when I’ve been to the place that is being discussed in a novel. Second, I love the format in which it’s written. The entire novel consists of Normandy’s Special Spring Project for school. Normandy has a unique and honest voice, and it gives an extra special element to her footnote-filled creative non-fiction essay. And talking about footnotes, Normandy’s footnotes are on a whole other level; sharp, dryly humorous, and almost their very own story. Everything, from the characters to the plot, made this book into something I just couldn’t put down.

The Truth Commission discusses some mature subjects, but nothing too graphic (Gr 9 and up, I would say) This book is a mystery, a love story, and a coming of age novel, and frankly, a small piece of magic. The only thing I didn’t particularly love about this book was the ending (and the cover, but oh, well). I can safely say (no spoilers) that it was what the story needed, and if there was any other ending, I would’ve readily called it unrealistic. Nevertheless, I just didn’t enjoy it like I did the rest of the book. Which is why The Truth Commission gets a very close to perfect 9.5/10. It is an honest (no pun intended), powerful and compelling book that I think everyone should read.