“We were four people: the children we’d been, and grown strangers now.”
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family.
Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas.
But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.
This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.
TW: sexual assault, gore
This book really caught me by surprise, and I had to think long and hard about what to rate it. There’s a lot about it that’s pulled off stunningly well, but also some things that gave me long pause. For certain, it’s a book that is best processed as slowly and patiently as possible.
To begin with, the style and genre both defied all expectations. It was unclear from the title and cover, but All the Truth That’s in Me is historical fiction. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, the book is written entirely in second person. That alone caught me off guard; second person is notoriously difficult to write in without it falling apart or sounding pretentious, among other issues. I entered the opening pages of the book with a wariness I hadn’t expected to feel when I first purchased it.
That wariness continued through the first segment of the novel, too. Some parts, since they are told in second person, made me feel as if I was missing a great deal of information (which I technically was), and that was aggravated by the use of second person. Moreover, the first segment was brimming with a lovey-dovey pining romance that almost bored me into putting the book down. I hadn’t picked it up to read about Judith’s doomed crush; I picked it up for the intrigue promised in the summary. Why couldn’t she speak? What story did she have to tell, and how was it going to change her world?
Thankfully, the pacing improved by leaps and bounds after that, shifting away from Judith’s helpless pining and entering a more proactive stage of her character. Minor characters were also gradually fleshed out in excellent detail, and by the novel’s end, I really enjoyed the relationship between Judith and her brother Darrel, and I even came to appreciate the love interest, Lucas, who is the “you” that Judith speaks to from the start. The minor characters, while supporting Judith’s journey (or opposing it, in other cases) all felt vibrant and real. They all desired something so clearly, and their struggles to achieve their goals were bound up in Judith’s trials very well.
Especially excellent was Judith’s arc, too. I went from irritated with her pining to actively invested in her growth of agency as she struggled to deliver the truth in all its parts. She and the plot unfurled wonderfully, in such a satisfying way once the romance was no longer the main and sole focus of her story.
My only reservations come from two areas: the prose itself, and the content. The prose was sometimes incredibly charming, as second person has to be more so than other POVs. Sometimes, though, it started to wander into poetic, purple territory, and my mind wandered off in turn. I reread a number of pages just trying to make the words finally sink, and at a few points, I considered skimming for the gist of it, disappointed and bored by the drop in pace.
As for the content (and here the trigger warnings given earlier apply), it was a hard book to stomach. There is a great deal of talk about whether or not Judith was raped in the time before the events of the novel begin, and in later segments, the behavior of another character is explicitly fueled by a cruel desire for sexual power and control over Judith. Thankfully, that behavior isn’t glorified for an instant, but it was difficult for me to get through. My skin was crawling.
There was also some explicitly detailed gore regarding one of the secondary characters, who is gravely injured. His wound is described in excruciating detail, and the treatment his wound receives is equally vivid. I have a weak stomach when it comes to gore of this level, and it took me completely by surprise, which was unpleasant, to say the least.
On the whole, though, All the Truth That’s in Me was a solid read. It gets three stars because it isn’t exactly my cup of tea, and sometimes its prose had me bored, but nonetheless, it still delivers with well-developed characters and a plot that (for the most part) keeps a well-timed pace.
If this book was anything it was certainly surprising. What books have surprised you lately? Have you found any books that excel in using second person? How do you feel about novels that use more poetic prose? There’s really a lot to talk about here.