I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Truthers by Geoffrey Girard
Published by Carolrhoda Lab on August 1 2017
Genres: Young adult, Thriller
Buy on Amazon
The nitty-gritty: A fun, fast-paced thriller about the conspiracy theories behind 9/11, this contemporary YA will give teens (and adults!) plenty to think about.
I don’t usually read YA thrillers, but when Geoffrey Girard asks you to read his book, you do! I have to admit I don’t know much about conspiracy theories—although my sixteen year old daughter tells me about plenty (I think it might be a teenager thing…)—but it sure was a blast reading about them, especially since Girard’s latest focuses on the conspiracy theories behind the events of 9/11. Truthers is definitely slanted toward the YA crowd—there’s some burgeoning romance and plenty of teen slang—but I can honestly say that it had some unexpected layers, and I ended up learning a lot. Add in some pulse-pounding action and you have a great mix.
Katie Wallace’s father has just been committed to Ventworth Hospital, after attacking a coworker. Coupled with his PTSD from his time in the military and his rantings about conspiracy theories, Scott Wallace is being heavily sedated and the administrators won’t let Katie see him. When she finally gets a few minutes to talk to him, though, he barely makes any sense, repeating over and over the cryptic words “They killed all of them.” Katie is taken into foster care, since she’s underage, but even this drastic life change won’t deter her from trying to help her father and discover the mystery behind his puzzling words.
A man from Veterans Affairs named Paul Cobb begins questioning Katie, trying to find out if her father has told her anything, and through these conversations Katie starts to realize that her father once worked for a company that may have had something to do with a 9/11 cover up. As she pieces together the confusing ramblings of her father and the suspicious actions of Paul Cobb, Katie begins to wonder if her dad might be telling the truth. Were hundreds of people who knew too much killed in order to hide the truth of what really happened that fateful day? How was her father involved? And even more unsettling, how does Katie herself fit into the picture? Her father mentioned something about a woman handing a baby to him in order to save her, and Katie suspects she might have been that child.
Before she knows it, Katie is knee-deep in conspiracy theories and trying to find a lawyer who will agree to help her father get out of Ventworth. Along with a young law student named Max, her best friend Gianna and even her new foster siblings, Katie doggedly looks for answers, stepping out of her comfort zone in order to discover the truth. But someone is watching her every move, someone who doesn’t want to leave any loose ends.
I personally have never paid much attention to conspiracy theories, and although I’ve heard the odd thing here or there about 9/11, I was never interested enough to read up on them. But it turns out there is a whole group of people who think that enough proof exists to present alternate stories of what might have actually happened, and I found it interesting that the title is based on a real group of people called “truthers” who literally spend their lives searching for the truth. Whether you believe it or not, it’s fascinating to read about, and Girard keeps a level head as he’s telling his story by presenting both sides and giving them equal page time. If you’re hoping for concrete answers by the end of the book, well I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. Nothing is really resolved, although the characters do learn plenty. The author also drops tantalizing hints about other conspiracies throughout our country’s history that seriously made me want to do some Googling to learn more!
I loved Katie as a character, she’s curious, loyal to her father, and determined to get to the bottom of what really happened during 9/11. She also dives headlong into dangerous situations, which made her character a bit less believable, but it certainly made for a fun story. While Katie is open-minded and prone to believe conspiracy theories in general, her friend Max is the opposite. He has a hard time believing that the U.S. government could ever lie to its people, especially when it comes to 9/11. Max jumps in and agrees to help Katie with her research, but he’s there mostly for moral support. He’s not buying the proclamations spouted by conspiracy nuts, and I liked that he balanced Katie out with his levelheaded attitude.
The other thing I really enjoyed was the fact that Katie has to stay with a foster family while her father is in Ventworth. I honestly can’t remember ever reading a story that dealt with foster care, and while it certainly isn’t the focus of this story, it felt very real and honest. While Katie isn’t thrilled with the rules and curfews her foster parents set for her, it worked much better than if she had just been able to stay at home by herself. Plus she becomes good friends with one of her foster sisters!
A couple of things didn’t work as well for me, but overall I consider them minor. As Katie is delving into the 9/11 conspiracies and trying to get her father released, we find out that someone seems to be watching her every move. Katie’s story is broken up by short scenes of “mystery” men talking about “stopping” Katie from finding out the truth, following her, and even using surveillance equipment to spy on her and Max. Although these scenes did add some suspense to the story, I found them a bit over-the-top for my taste. There is also something that happens to Katie’s cat that did not sit well with me. That whole scenario, although it did turn out better that I expected, just didn’t feel like it belonged in this story.
But despite those issues, Girard certainly knows how to pace his story. There’s plenty of excitement throughout, especially the last few chapters when everything comes to a head. Several things are resolved, but the bigger questions aren’t, leaving lots of room for readers to draw their own conclusions. I loved the way Girard was able to add serious themes like PTSD, mental illness, foster care and even drug use to a fast-paced story that never felt bogged down by those things. Truthers is both entertaining and educational, which for me is a winning combination.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
My interview with Geoffrey will be up tomorrow, don’t miss it!