Zarins, Kim. Sometimes We Tell the Truth.
3Q * 3P * J * S
Zarins, Kim. Sometimes We Tell the Truth. Simon Pulse, 2016. 448p. $17.99. 978-14814-6499-4.
This is a clever, modern retelling of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Jeff and his classmates are on a bus ride to Washington, D.C., telling stories in a competition created by his teacher to keep the students calm, and to earn an A in their senior civics class. While each classmate shares their tale, Jeff Chaucer, an aspiring author, writes them down. As he listens and transcribes, he thinks about his former best friend Pard, who is in love with Jeff and whom Jeff may love as well. Through Jeff's ruminating narration among the stories of his nineteen classmates, readers learn about Jeff's life and his questioning about his sexuality. Readers also come to know the characters through their stories.
Jeff's complicated relationship with Pard is honest, sweet, and compelling, especially in comparison to some of the bawdy tales his classmates tell. Jeff eventually understands and accepts his sexuality, and Pard reveals a secret. Zarins ties each story to current teen culture and literature, and manages to make each one recognizable as coming from Canterbury Tales. The author ends with a note on Chaucer's tales and describes how she tied the students and their stories to his. Until this note, many readers may not know this a retelling; the novel stands on its own as a road trip mixed with a school story and a hint of romance. It shows readers that each person has a story and a voice, and each person deserves to be heard.--Kristin Fletcher-Spear.