A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love tough boys and other strong protagonists
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