Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Mount Rainier (YA Review: The Honest Truth)


Title:The Honest Truth
Author: Dan Gemeinhart
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2015. 229 pages.  Young Adult (?)
Source: Library

Mark is sick, really sick, and he has just one thing he feels like he has to do. He wants to climb Mt. Rainier, if he dies trying. So he runs away to do it, taking only the bare essentials and his dog.

This book caught my eye while I was shelving at the library, first because of the cover, and then the blurb, because I'm from the Northwest and Mt. Rainier is even still (after nearly 30 years), "The Mountain."

The title is good, because this mostly first-person narrative doesn't pull any punches. Cancer sucks, and Mark isn't under any illusions about that, or his long-term chances, and he tell us what he's feeling. I don't know if the author meant it that way, but when I read the list of supplies Mark is carrying to the Mountain, I really did feel like it was deliberately a suicide journey, though it might have been more about him not having any experience (not sure if the author does, either, because it's not always clear if he sees the gaps either).

This book falls squarely into the "kids with cancer" genre which seems popular these days, and doesn't lack any of the emotional force--or manipulation--of that story line. But it was a good read, and had a few elements I really liked. For one, Mark writes his journal--and notes to his best friend--in haiku. He's a little obsessive about it, but it is a nice touch, and maybe symbolic, too, given that he must also live his life inside some very strict parameters.

It is also, of course, a rather literal "journey of self-discovery," and I think works very well at that. The Mark of the final chapter is not--exactly--the Mark of the first chapter.

I'm not sure why our library put this in Young Adult. It didn't seem to be to deal with any harder issues than a lot of books in the Juvvy section, and there is no sex or sexual innuendo. Only a lot of anger and sadness. The age of the protagonist is never made clear (that I caught--though there is some backstory that would allow me to figure it out, I think). I would say The Honest Truth is suitable for  kids from maybe 11 or 12 up. The reading level isn't hard, but the subject matter (in particular the sense that the narrator has given up--though that is redeemed, too) might be too heartbreaking for the littler kids (so on reflection maybe that's why YA, since if it's in Juvvy it's apt to be picked up by kids as young as 8).

Full Disclosure: I checked The Honest Truth out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

And here's Mark's mountain, on a better day than when he visited!

This is the opposite side from where Mark went.


  1. Peacefull looking mountain, like to be there now

    1. Cold there right now, and probably raining :) It's a beautiful mountain, and I love it, but it's only a sleeping volcano. The first guys who climbed it (in the usual fashion, thinking it really wasn't very far and they'd just run up before having their next drink at the bar) survived because they spent the night on the summit next to the steam vents, nice and warm...

  2. This is a tough topic for me to read. My 17 year old niece passed away from leukemia in 2012, and while time is a healer of sorts, I try to steer clear of the books and movies still. I do love that gorgeous photo of Mt. Ranier. My daughter got married in January and is now living in Tacoma. We're visiting next month, our first trip to the PNW, and I can't wait to see Ranier up close : ) Thanks for stopping by my blog...best of luck with the remaining letters of the alphabet!

    1. Hope that you get to see the Mountain when you are there, Joyce! You may have to get close up and see it like Mark does--just a little bit of it through the weather.

  3. Mount Rainer looks quite beautiful, and maybe I will visit one day.

    1. Hope you do! I've gone on to love a lot of mountains, but Rainier was The Mountain of my childhood :)


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