Title: The Truth of Right Now
Author: Kara Lee Corthron
Publisher: Simon Pulse, Jan. 3rd, 2017
Themes: abuse, family conflicts, mental illness, violence, racism, white privilege
I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.
When privileged white girl Lily returns to her preppy Manhattan high school for her junior year after a dramatic year off, her so-called friends hardly welcome her back with open arms. In the midst of working through the reason for her attempted suicide over the summer, and her classmates’ rebuff and bullying, she encounters a new kid, Dari (Dariomauritius Raphael Gray), also an outsider.
An unlikely couple given their class and race backgrounds, they start a relationship. They at least share some things in common, like coming from broken homes and using their creativity as a survival tool. They swiftly grow close and their romance hits some epic teenage highs and lows. However, their friendship isn’t the panacea they both long for. Lilly’s naive lack of understanding of the threats faced by her Trinidadian-American boyfriend result in a tragic twist at the end.
Why I like this Book:
In her debut novel, Kara Lee Corthron crafts a gutsy realistic story of two teenagers from equally broken but vastly different worlds. Despite class and race polarities, they are drawn together by a mutual need for acceptance and friendship. The narration alternates between the two protagonists, and I appreciated the author’s choice to write Lily in the first person and Dari in the close third. Both characters are brutally raw and authentic in their struggle to navigate the vagaries of high school, home and their new friendship, while dealing with inner wounds. Cynical Dari and unstable Lily’s existential turmoil and simmering anger does not feel exaggerated given the early loss of innocence they have both experienced.
Dari’s controlling, abusive immigrant dad who kicks his son out, and Lily’s struggling, enabling author mom provide two richly developed secondary characters, essential to this character-driven plot. New York, with its complexity of diversity and prejudice is a rich and pulsingly real backdrop to the unfolding plot. I can picture the Staten island ferry and the smell the stormy salty air on Brighton beach.
The pacing is excellent, and the author manages to sustain that ‘on the edge’ feeling of teen intensity through intimate internal dialogue. The “right now” is present on every page.
Two things particularly impressed me as I read this novel: firstly, how well the author portarys a West Indian-American teen (I had a big Trinidadian friendship group when I lived in London); secondly, how even growing up in a diverse city such as 21st century New York, a young white teen can be truly very ignorant of what a less privileged and black teen faces on a daily basis. This added much to the integrity of the novel for me.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Teens 13 and older can get advice and find someone to talk to at Scarleteen
Here’s a list of websites and phone numbers of CPS (child protection Services) by state)