Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel Book Poster Image
Depicts high school with devastating accuracy.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 17 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

A novel about the importance of telling the truth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

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


Infrequent mild to moderate swearing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byronit s. April 25, 2018


This story tells about a boy who lied and how it affected him. Great!
Adult Written by1194801 December 8, 2011


Parents need to keep OPEN COMMUNICATION REGARDING SCHOOL OF THEIR CHILDREN. Very important so children will know to come home and tell their experiences regard... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCookieA24 January 4, 2021

teaches a great lesson

I read this book in school, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is about a kid who lied and how that affected him. It teaches a great lesson but leaves you with a cli... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 1, 2020


I read this book for a project and honestly, it was just okay. If I had the choice to read it I wouldn't again. If you want to use this as a book to debate... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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