Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel

Common Sense Media says

Depicts high school with devastating accuracy.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

A novel about the importance of telling the truth.

Positive role models

The main character deliberately disrupts a class, and then lies about it.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Infrequent mild to moderate swearing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book depicts high school life with devastating accuracy, and uses an unusual, intriguing format. Teenagers easily understand the situation, recognize the characters, and enjoy the book -- even when it's required.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Philip Malloy, a freshman, causes a disturbance at school by humming the National Anthem to annoy his teacher -- and the minor incident turns into a national scandal when the teacher is accused of being unpatriotic. The tale is told through a series of journal entries, letters, and memos.

Is it any good?


Readers who pick up this book will be struck first by the unusual format; Avi calls this book "a documentary novel." It consists of a collection of memos, dialogues, diary entries, newspaper articles, letters, and transcripts of speeches and radio shows. Avi lets readers make their own judgments about what happens, but only the reader knows the whole story. Philip's fellow students easily figure out what really happens, and taunt him, punishing him more than the school authorities can.

Yet branding Philip as the only dishonest character won't work. Philip's parents go along with his lies to support him and look patriotic, instead of finding out what their son really needs. Because so few want to find the truth, Miss Narwin loses her career and Philip loses his friends and his dream. He's finally forced to tell the truth in the devastating last line of the book.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the effects of twisting the truth.

  • Many characters distort and disregard the truth to protect their own

  • interests.

  • Have you seen this happen in your life?

  • What happened?

Book details

Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Avon Books (HarperCollins)
Publication date:January 1, 1991
Number of pages:212

This review of Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written bymarialeaschad February 9, 2009
Teen, 13 years old Written byxxhehexx12 November 13, 2009

Best Book

I absolutely love this book. I read it all in one day because I couldnt but it done. I highly recommend it.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byaliloop February 1, 2009

i liked it.

this book really shows you independence. and how 2 take up 4 urself.


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