Thursday, September 22, 2016

Blog Tour - Arc Review: Truth or Dare by Barbara Dee

Truth or Dare: five girls, one summer, many secrets by Barbara Dee. 256 p. Aladdin, September 20, 2016. 9781481459686. (Review from arc courtesy of author.)

One of the things I love about writing reviews to my blog (or Goodreads) is that I can get really personal. As I sat at my computer pondering what I would write about Truth or Dare, a memory burst unbidden. Gym class at my catholic school: fifth or sixth grade. We girls (boys took gym with the school's lone male teach downstairs) were all lined up for some activity when Mary Margaret burst into tears. The teacher took her aside whispering. Mary Margaret left the gym. Judy, a girl a year older than us because she was left back (those were the days when kids were retained), sagely commented, "Mary Margaret has her friend." Thinking I misheard, I asked, "What's wrong with her friend?" Judy sneered, "Don't you know what a friend is?"

Now, Judy terrified me. She always seemed angry. I didn't make the connection then what the impact of being in the same grade as her younger sister had on her. She was tough, cool and had a posse of followers. Thankfully, she did not announce it loudly. She whispered it to the girl on the other side, who whispered it to the girl next to her. Soon every girl in my gym class knew that I had no idea what a friend was. 

So I asked my mom when I got home. I am the oldest of six. I remember my busy mother stopping whatever she was doing and inviting me to sit on the couch, where she explained everything, to my absolute horror. I recall vaguely noticing that a sprinkling of girls in my class were sprouting breasts while my own chest remained flat as a board. If sprouting breasts meant monthly bleeding? No thanks. 

Thankfully, I had a mom I could ask, which is a good segue back to the book. Which is the point of this post, so get to it already, Brenda. I'd like to point out, though, the universality, at least among the females of the species of this rite of passage. If reading this book brought back my own ancient memories, then the book is that good.

Lia has been motherless for two years. She has a posse of best friends led by Abi, whose own mom has stepped in big-time as Lia's surrogate mother complete with regular home-cooked meals for her, her brother and father. Plans are set for most of the group to head to camp for the summer. Only, at the very last minute, like in the parking lot ready to board the bus last minute, Lia begs her father not to send her. She just doesn't want to deal with her own lack of action in the puberty department around all those girls.

She spends a rather introspective summer in Maine with her hippy dippy Aunt Shelby instead. She is surprised to learn that Abi's mom bullied her Aunt Shelby when they were kids. When she's reunited with her friends at the start of seventh grade, she discovers that's she's a bit on the outs thanks to the bonding that happened over camp and the girls' fascination with the game Truth or Dare. Lia chooses truth but then proceeds to lie - about getting her period and about kissing a boy. The fragile friendships crumble under the lies. 

This was a fun middle grade read about friendship and puberty told in an authentic tween voice. There's plenty of drama and the tween dialogue is pitch perfect. It's peopled with interesting characters, including the adults who are imperfect but caring and involved in the lives of the young people they love. 

Give this gentle, humorous book to tweens who want a read- alike to Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret or Lauren Myracle's Winnie series. Truth or Dare is Ms. Dee's sixth middle grade novel. I am definitely going to look into the author's earlier titles. Check out the author's website for more information. 

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