A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Absolutely Truly is a tame mystery from Heather Vogel Frederick, author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club. The plot involves some discovered love letters, but there's nothing of concern for big kids or tweens except a major spoiler about Charlotte's Web -- make sure your kid has read or seen it first. Some mean boys repeatedly tease Truly and others, and the teacher scolds them, but there are no consequences; still, the situation is resolved satisfactorily. Mild peril from climbing too high is safely resolved.
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What's the story?
It's hard enough to be a 12-year-old girl, let alone one who's 6 feet tall and has just moved from Texas to New Hampshire after her father lost an arm on combat duty in Afghanistan. While working after school in the family bookstore, Truly discovers a love letter hidden in the pages of Charlotte's Web with a cryptic, anonymous love note that sets her and her friends on an intriguing scavenger hunt all over town. Meanwhile, a valuable first edition has disappeared from the bookstore, and without the money from selling the book, the Lovejoys might not be able to keep the bookstore open much longer. Can Truly reunite the lost lovers?
Is it any good?
Heather Vogel Frederick's ABSOLUTELY TRULY is a mildly entertaining but flawed mystery. Frederick's strength lies in her well-developed and relatable narrator; in the colorful, busy world of a family-run bookstore; and in an intriguing mystery that keeps the reader guessing as it unfolds. There are two mysteries going on at once: Who stole the autographed first edition of Charlotte's Web, and who left the trail of cryptic love letters? Truly only actively pursues the love-letter mystery, and it's an entertaining investigation that's satisfactorily, although not especially imaginatively, resolved. The resolution of the stolen book is frustrating, though; it's simply not believable, relying on no more than the fact that the perpetrator's a bit odd.
The writing overall is perfunctory and lacks sparkle. The pace often slows to a crawl while Frederick meticulously documents where each member of Truly's large family can be found at the moment (wrestling practice, a play date, in the office) without eliminating suspects or helping the reader get to know minor characters better. And it does seem unforgivable to tell what happens to Charlotte in a book aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds. Still, if your kid already knows about Charlotte, is a voracious reader, and is wondering what being a gawky middle schooler is all about, he or she will enjoy getting to know Truly and following her exploits.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about soldiers returning home after combat duty. Do you know anyone who's served in a war zone? Does Truly's father seem realistic?
Lots of books are mentioned in the story. Which have you read? Are there any you haven't read that you'd like to now?
Truly's often embarrassed because she's so tall. Should she be? What would you tell her if she were your friend?
- Author: Heather Vogel Frederick
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: November 4, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.