The Honest Truth

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The Honest Truth Book Poster Image
Boy with cancer runs away to climb mountain in moving tale.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Short chapters make this a quick read. Could provoke meaningful conversations about when you should and shouldn't keep a secret for a friend.

Positive Messages

Mark learns to let go of his anger as he realizes he's never alone so long as he's around people who love him.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mark is often angry and rude -- and he worries his family when he runs away -- but he has nice moments, too, such as when he cheers up a little girl on a bus or leaves a good-bye note for his loyal best friend. Mark's relationship with Jess is sweet: The author creates a boy and a girl who are best friends, and there's nothing even mildly flirty to their relationship.

Violence

Mark has cancer and is sick throughout much of the book. He's often in peril; for example, he's beaten up by a group of teens, and he and his dog fall into freezing water. His dog also falls down a crevice and almost dies, and Mark almost dies of exposure. Mark tells a man who picks him up on the side of the road that he has a knife.  

Sex
Language

A few uses of "crap," "crappy," and "hell."

Consumerism

Mark buys a Snickers. A woman offers him a 7 Up.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man drinks coffee and smokes a cigar. A woman working at a store smells like cigarettes. Mark takes a prescription drug for his cancer. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Honest Truth is about a 12-year-old boy named Mark, who has cancer and is sick throughout much of the book. He runs away from his home in Wenatchee, Washington, causing great worry for his family, and travels more than 200 miles to climb Mt. Rainier. He's often in peril: He's beaten up by a group of teens; he and his dog fall into freezing water; his dog falls down a crevice and almost dies; and Mark almost dies of exposure. Mark's often angry and rude, but he has nice moments, too, such as when he cheers up a little girl on a bus or leaves a good-bye note for his loyal best friend. Mark’s relationship with Jess is sweet: The author created a boy and girl best friend, and there's nothing even mildly flirty to their relationship. There are a few uses of "crap," "crappy," and "hell." A man drinks coffee and smokes a cigar. Eventually, Mark learns to let go of his anger as he realizes he's never alone so long as he's around people who love him. Short chapters make this a quick read. The Honest Truth could provoke meaningful conversations about when you should and shouldn't keep a secret for a friend. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 15 year old Written byclaynheidi September 26, 2017

Another great book to read.

I would actually rate this 4.5 stars. Great story with some hard, but honest truths about cancer and dying. Really loved the message about kindness, love, and f... Continue reading
Adult Written byfardowsam December 13, 2017

i am greartat reading

i think this book is amazing
Teen, 16 years old Written byLuiDog April 4, 2016

AMAZING AND SAD BOOK

This is a book that is easy to read and emotional moving. A young boy with cancer runs away in hopes to climb a mountain with his dog. The drama may be intense... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 28, 2016

A very powerful story.

"The Honest Truth" was an amazing story I read, and in some parts I almost broke down crying. Hearing the story of our 11 year old describe some spani... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mark, age 12, has fought cancer since he was 5, and now that it's back, he decides to run away. He heads to Mt. Rainier (traveling 263 miles by train, bus, and hitched ride) with his loyal dog, Beau, by his side, planning to achieve his dream of climbing the mountain. The only person he tells is his loyal friend Jess, and he asks her to keep his secret. Along the way, he faces thugs who beat him up but also "angels" who feed him, give him a ride, and offer other kinds of support. But what will happen to Mark -- and Beau -- when they reach their destination at last? 

Is it any good?

The writing is a mixed bag: There's some lovely and powerful imagery, but some interactions -- especially those involving children -- are a bit too scripted to be believed. For example, when a younger Mark confesses to Jess how scared he is about his cancer and why he must keep his fear a secret, he says, "I can't hold it all by myself, Jess. It's too much. Can I cry with you?" The premise of THE HONEST TRUTH is sad and chilling, and many of the things Mark experiences when he runs away -- from being very nauseated by his cancer to being beaten up by a group of mean teenagers -- are intense to read about.

In some ways this novel feels constructed to make a point to readers, but ultimately it has a sweet message about the power of love.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about secrets. Would you have kept Mark's secret the way Jess promised to, even when Mark was missing?

  • Why do you think stories of kids and teens with serious illnesses are so popular? 

  • Mark talks about being lonely during his bouts with cancer. Can you think of some ways you could spread kindness to kids who are in the hospital?

Book details

  • Author: Dan Gemeinhart
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Topics: Friendship
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publication date: January 23, 2015
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
  • Number of pages: 240
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

Themes & Topics

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