________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 19. . . .January 18, 2013


The Almost Truth.

Eileen Cook.
New York, NY: Simon Pulse (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster Canada), 2012.
246 pp., hardcover & eBook, $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4424-4019-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4424-4021-0 (eBook).

Subject Headings:
Swindlers and swindling-Fiction. Impersonation-Fiction.
Missing children-Fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



I looked around the room as if I expected someone to jump in and point out how twisted my Mom’s thinking was. “You can’t be serious.”

“You think you’re the only one who wants better? I don’t want to keep working at the hotel, and I’ve been there over twenty years. I don’t want to live in this trailer either. I’m sorry your life hasn’t been all sunshine, roses, and unicorns. Welcome to the real world, honey. This family needed that money and you’re a part of this family. Sometimes you don’t get what you want.”

“You’re acting like you did nothing wrong. You knew it was wrong or you would have asked me, but instead you just took it. You stole it. ”

Mom slapped the knife she had been using to spread mayonnaise down on the counter.

“You stole that money first, so get off your frickin’ high horse.”

I dropped the statement and stared at her.

She laughed when she saw my face. “What? You think I don’t know what you and Brendan are up to all the time? You’re a real chip off the block. Your dad should be proud.”

“I’m nothing like him.”

“Why, because you haven’t been caught like he has? Maybe you’re better at it that he is, but a con artist is a con artist. Your bluffing some rich boys out of a few dollars with a card trick isn’t any better than your dad fencing hot car parts. You grew up with your dad, what else were you supposed to do? You lie down with the dogs, you get up with fleas.”

“I’m not like him,” I said. She raised an eyebrow at me. “Yes, I pulled a few cons, but I did it because I needed money for school. There was a good reason for what I did.”

“Even the devil has an excuse for doing wrong. You’re not special there. The truth is, the villain of every story actually thinks he’s the hero. Your dad has a good reason too. He takes care of this family. It’s not like he’s going to get some fancy job making big money. He does the best he can. We’re all doing the best we can.”

My entire body was shaking, as if I was attached to a live wire. I was either going to melt down in full-on tears or start throwing things.

Mom sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Sadie, I’m sorry. I don’t want to fight with you, and I don’t think you’re a bad kid. I wish we’d done better by you, but your dad and I have done our best. I promise, even though it might feel like it, your world isn’t falling apart. This is a hurdle, and while I wish I could save you from every hard thing that is going to happen in your life, I can’t. You’re going to have to learn how to pick yourself up when the world knocks you down.” She stepped out from behind the kitchen counter and took a step toward me, as if she was going in for a hug.

I stepped back quickly out of her reach. “The world didn’t knock me down; you did. You’re not trying to save me from a hurdle, you’re throwing them out in front of me. I figured out early I’d better do whatever I had to, because no one in this family was going to help me.” I yanked open the door. “And you know the biggest wrong of all, Mom? You apparently knew I was up to something all this time and you never even tried to stop me.”

I slammed the screen door behind me and took off.


Sadie has just finished high school and will soon realize her dream of going away to college - away from the small island where she grew up, away from life in a trailer park and away from her parents. Sadie has always wanted to study architecture and looks forward to bettering herself and finding a new life. The entire dream crumbles when she learns that her mother has taken all of her savings from her bank account. Sadie earned some of the money with con jobs; a few dollars here and there began to add up. She realizes that she will now need to find a quick and easy way to make a lot of cash, and, as luck would have it, she stumbles upon some information which she can turn to her advantage – the ultimate con!

      Yes, Sadie is a small-time thief, but she is nonetheless a likeable character who is filled with drive and ambition and a true desire to make something more of herself. Her con jobs have never really hurt anyone, and she approaches them both with daring and a sense of humour. Because Brendan, her long-time friend and the love interest in the novel, is equally adept at helping others part with their money, the two make a good team. Sadie’s parents are two of the main secondary characters. Her father has spent much of his life in jail because of illegal schemes which have back-fired on him. Her mother has worked hard to support Sadie but does not provide much emotional support for her daughter. When her mother wants to avoid reality, she simply makes up a story which will suit the situation and keep the truth from surfacing. Ironically, Sadie comes by her nature to con people very ‘”honestly”.

     Eileen Cook has given her readers an interesting and fast-paced novel with elements of romance, mystery and humour. Throughout the book, there always seems to be someone intent on conning someone else on either an obvious or subconscious level. Sadie deals with typical coming-of-age issues, such as learning to accept herself for who she is, while still enjoying the fantasy of wondering if there is any chance she might have been adopted or kidnapped as a baby, thus belonging to a family with far higher social status. Cook makes this fantasy seem almost believable at times as Sadie pieces together the facts of a kidnapping which happened years before, and readers will enjoy a plot with many twists and turns before Sadie comes to understand her true identity. The final pages answer most questions, but readers are still left somewhat in the dark as to what will ultimately happen to Sadie.

     What is more important in life: money and the social class it automatically gives us, or a family and friends who support and help us, even if their efforts are at times misguided? Sadie is not happy with the status quo in her life, but is she ready to turn everything upside down and deal with the consequences?

     Young adult readers familiar with Eileen Cook’s early teen novels will enjoy this newest book and those new to Cook’s work will certainly become fans after reading The Almost Truth.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher of secondary school English and French and teacher-librarian, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.