And this is true by Emily Mackie: A discussion

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‘And this is true’ By Emily Mackie.
Let’s talk about that! (GMM WHATUP?)

After I promised myself that I wouldn’t borrow any more books from the library last week since I’m gonna be leaving in a month or so, I immediately broke that promise by borrowing two more books, one of which this ended up being. So let’s get into it.

Emily Mackie is NOT an author I’ve heard and this is certainly NOT a book I’ve heard about or even seen. So what prompted me to pick this off the shelf and hand it over to the lady at the library and declare ‘I’m borrowing these?’

  1. The cover, which made me think that this was a harmless YA novel that would in the end be about being friends again or getting the girl and all that stuff which usually is the ending note for most YA books. I know I’ve professed myself to be over YA books but after reading a spate of Murakami, I was craving something less heavy-sitting on the brain.
  2. The spoiler/blurb on the back. It literally reads:
    Once upon a time there was a boy whose home was van and whose world was his father.
    Be warned: This is not a fairytale, though it does contain a kiss. You have to be ready for an unpredictable journey through a realm where nothing is black or white because the truth is, You can’t help who you fall in love with.

Doesn’t that blurb/spoiler look like it belongs on the back of a cover about a teenage guy who struggling to get the girl while he goes on crazy adventures with his father?

I wish all books just remained honest to their back cover. And their front cover. Basically their entire cover. Yes, that would be lovely. (I realise that this is as good an instance as any to prove to me that I shouldn’t judge by covers but I’m not the sort to learn my lessons the first time. I’ll need at least five more instances of serious miscalculations to even CONSIDER not judging books by covers. Carry on)

– Spoilers ahead –

The story:
Nevis’s whole life fits into an old van in which he and his writer father amble along the british country side. He doesn’t go to school, he has no friends, he has a few books (ONLY A FEW? OH THE HORROR) and he doesn’t even poop into a proper toilet. And so, in the sorta happy, sorta horrible background of this van, Nevis discovers something about himself. Well two things actually,

  1. He’s gay.
  2. He has feelings for his father.

And that’s what the story is about. How Nevis works out his feelings for his father, being so closeted (no pun intended) from real life, he has no idea that his love for his father is wrong and when other characters he meet hint at this wrongness, Nevis struggles with himself to accept himself and his feelings.

It’s an interesting story (to put it modestly) and seriously disturbing too because Nevis isn’t a 17 or 18 year old. He’s only 14/15 and while that isn’t the age of a very small child, he doesn’t know a whole lot about people because of his sheltered life in the van.

Emily Mackie has taken this into consideration and even though Nevis’s age isn’t really a mystery, (it gets mentioned outright a few times), she lulls the reader into a confusion by making Nevis sound naive, innocent and more than a little gullible. It’s written in first-person from Nevis’s point of view and this makes it easier for her to show the readers that Nevis is severely underdeveloped emotionally.

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So what part of this cover says ‘homosexuality’ and ‘incest’ huh? FALSE ADVERTISING. I wanted a happy YA book. Not a depressing novel about almost child abuse.

I found the writing to be alternating between riveting and rather dull. There were some parts that literally gripped my nose and eyes to the pages (I realise the word is glued but who cares?) while others actually made me skim through the passages. Likewise, the clarity of the narration alternates too. There are quite frequent flashbacks here and some of them only serve to confuse rather than clarify the questions that crop up during the present-day events.

The book starts off rather slow paced and until the last part of the book, maintains this pace through out. I think this was chiefly because Nevis is a very passive character, in that he observes, listens and waits around way more than actually doing things. For a kid in the middle of his teenage years, he’s quiet, shy and altogether unprepared to take action and take decisions. In fact, the whole story actually progresses because of the efforts of the secondary characters actually.
Does this make Nevis a boring character?

On the contrary, it makes one marvel at him. Here’s a 14/15 year old who, rather than stamping his authority on the world and trying to prove his independence as most teenagers do, is busy waiting around for his father to talk to him, to take him somewhere else, to even speak for him. Reading the book, one is constantly amazed at the oddity of this kid.

So the bad: The narrative style makes for some tedious sections as well as some moments of confusion. Even though this may be because it’s written from the perspective of a severely sheltered teenager whose lacking any sort of social skills, it does make reading this book a teensy bit tiring.

The Good: The story. The story is as interesting and original as it is severely disturbing. Really, throw in incestuos feelings and an alcoholic father, almost every chapter in the book reeks of child abuse (but there’s actually none in it). And the characterization of Nevis is superb. Very very real. Which only adds to the disturbing factor.

Did I like this book? Yes (and was kinda sorta disgusted at the same time). Did I want to read this story? Oh God No. Why would anyone put such a happy looking cover on such a depressing story? This. Literally. Killed. Me.

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