What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that All the Truth That's In Me tells the story of a teen girl apparently in early America (though the exact time and setting are not specified) who's held captive and has half her tongue cut out before she's returned to her village. Her captor molests her and almost rapes her. Judy witnesses the murder of another village girl, who's later found naked and dead. During a war, many men are killed, and Judy's brother has to have his foot brutally amputated after he shoots himself by accident. Also, the elders question Judy about her "maidenhood" after she returns to the community. A teacher propositions her and later accuses her of prostitution. Judy sleeps with Lucas in the woods (which she tries to keep a secret, even from him). Still, All the Truth That's In Me carries a message about believing in your own self-worth -- and your ability to be loved -- even when you've been treated cruelly. Judith remains kind and loving, even after she's kidnapped, maimed, and shunned by her community, including her own mother. Eventually, she finds people who care for her and, with their encouragement, begins to both literally and figuratively find her voice.
What's the story?
Judith has been an outcast since she returned to her settlement after going missing for two years. She had been held by a crazy man who cut out half her tongue before setting her free. Now, her mother has forbid her to attempt to speak, and there are rumors that she's cursed. Beyond her chores, Judy spends her time watching -- and watching out for -- Lucas, an honest, hardworking young man she has loved her whole life -- and who also is the son of her captor. When a new, unexpected friend decides to help Judy work on her speech, she begins to find a voice, buried for so long. But in her effort to protect Lucas and the town, she has started a chain of events that might ruin both their lives.
Is it any good?
The unusual and sophisticated storytelling -- the author gives readers only hints at the date, place, and history of Judy's settlement, and the details about her capture remain a mystery until the end -- makes this book a better fit for careful teen readers. These mature readers also will be better prepared for the dark material including the brutal amputation of much of Judy's tongue and primitive surgery for her war-wounded brother.
There's a lot of rough stuff here, but readers looking for a romance will find plenty to swoon over in the tender gestures between Judy and Lucas. For example, one night she finds him freezing outside his home and secretly curls up with him under the blankets, even though "[e]very moment I tell myself I don't dare stay any longer." The ending comes across a bit too neat given all the buildup, but it's a satisfying finish for the long-suffering couple.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about author Julie Berry's choice to keep the details about time and setting a mystery. Berry told School Library Journal, "I love historical fiction, but I didn't want Judith's story to take on the weight of the genre's conventional expectations." Do you think this was a good choice?
The publisher recommends All the Truth That's In Me for the 12-to-17 age group. What age would you recommend it for?
Do you think All the Truth That's In Me would make a good movie? Why, or why not? If yes, whom would you pick to play the lead characters?