September 2015 is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Dan Gemeinhart, Author
Scholastic Press, Fiction, Jan. 27, 2015
Suitable for Grades: 4 – 7
Themes: Boy with cancer, Choices, Goals, Self-confidence, Dog, Friendship, Mount Rainier
Opening: “The mountain was calling me. I had to run away. I had to. And, I didn’t need anyone to go with me.”
Book Jacket Synopsis: In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day. But, in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from. So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan. A plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.
Why I like The Honest Truth:
Debut author Dan Gemeinhart has written a powerful and inspiring novel about a 12-year-old boy who has cancer. Mark’s dealt with chemo treatments since he was five years old. His options are running out. He’s angry. He’s lost. His parents and doctors are making decisions for him. Mark feels out of control and wants to make some choices about his life — and that may include how he dies. He confides his pain and secrets to his best friend, Jessie.
The setting is realistic to the Pacific Northwest and the unpredictable weather. The theme is raw and honest. The plot is fraught with danger and obstacles. Mark runs away with his dog, Beau, and embarks upon a journey to climb the summit of Mount Rainier — a dream he can focus on. His choice may seem selfish because of the pain and worry he causes his parents. He also creates a dilemma for his friend, Jessie –does she tell his parents or keep his secret. And he puts his dog and himself at risk during a dangerous snowstorm on the mountain.
Mark, Jessie and Beau are memorable characters. Beau is devoted and protective of Mark. The alternating chapters, with Jessie’s occasional half chapters, works well. You hear about Mark’s parents anxiety and pain through Jessie. But, you experience Jessie’s struggle to interpret what Mark wants her to do. Does she share her suspicions with his parents or honor her friend’s request.
It took Gemeinhart guts to write a book with such depth. It is a tough book to review, even though it grabbed me from the first page. Mark grapples with life and death questions as he works through anger and fear. Which will he choose? The Honest Truth will make readers think. It is an excellent classroom discussion book for teens.
Thank you Greg Pattridge! I won The Honest Truth in a giveaway on Greg’s website, Always in the Middle.