Initially, I wasn’t planning to write a full blog post about Truth of Dare because honestly, I didn’t feel like I had much to say about it. But while I was setting up my August Wrap Up yesterday, my resentment towards this book surfaced in an unexpected, and quite an intense way.
In this post, I will attempt to express my thoughts in a manner that is fair and respectful to the author. I hope I do a proper job on it…
*This book was sent to me by Pan Macmillan South Africa in exchange for an honest review*
A powerful and moving novel about bravery from the Guardian’s “writer to watch” Non Pratt, perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green and Holly Bourne. How far is too far when it comes to the people you love? Claire Casey hates being the centre of attention. But if it means getting Sef Malik to notice her, it’s a risk she’s happy to take. Sef is prepared to do anything to help his recently disabled brother. But this means putting Claire’s love – and life – on the line. Because when you’re willing to risk everything, what is there left to lose?
In this YA contemporary novel, Non Pratt takes on a lot of important matters, such as neuro-disability, bullying, cyber-bullying and we even get a glimpse of asexuality. But for me, I thought the main focus of this book was the process of dealing, and ultimately coming to terms with something devastating.
Going into Truth or Dare I was super excited about the structure of the book. I liked the idea of reading the first half of the book from Claire Casey’s perspective and then flipping the book around to read Sef Malik’s side of things – the ending of their stories meeting right in the middle. It sounded like it would provide an interesting and unique reading experience which I’m always on board with.
However, after reading the entire book, and especially after reading Sef’s side of the story I felt more disconnected with his character than before. I appreciated what the author was trying to bring across with this method of storytelling, and I honestly did think it was really very clever, but the whole second part of the book felt more than a little detached. And what made this even more disappointing was that Sef had some truly intense issues that he was dealing with – it felt like a chance wasted to delve a little deeper into what he was going through.
Since the second half of the book was mostly a retelling of all the events in the first half (but from Sef’s perspective, obviously) it just felt repetitive to me. I suspect this has a lot to do with what I mentioned above, but besides that, I already didn’t find the first half all that complex so I didn’t get the appeal of reading it all over again.
I also found that while the whole “Truth or Dare” YouTube channel was rather fun and refreshing; the actual dares felt super cringey to me. I found it hard to believe that they’d make any money from what they were doing, but this could be a personal preference more than anything else.
There were a few plot holes in the story that I couldn’t ignore and I wish it was dealt with better to make the story more rounded and believable. Even the ending felt too rushed for me to take anything meaningful from.
Before I get into my main issue with this book, I’d like to share the author’s note with you:
I respect what Non Pratt was trying to deliver with this book, I appreciate that she is just sharing her perspective and that there’s no way it could match up to that of every person who reads it. But please, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, when you take on a voice that is so vastly different from your own and put a book out into the world that will be read by people across the globe, you need to understand that your imaginings of what it would be like, then becomes their imaginings too.
Going into this book I had no idea that it was supposed to be one with a POC character. If I’m not mistaken, Sef Malik is Brisith-Pakistani, and for a while, I thought he was Muslim since him and his whole family had Arabic names. There were a few more things in the book that cemented this for me, but then at a later stage, it was revealed that they celebrate Christmas so I don’t really know… Religion aside, I felt that the author really went out of her way to westernize the Malik family, going so far as changing their names to make them more “in” with the crowds at school – this bugged me to no end. It also kept reminding me of Uzo Aduba and her response to the pressures of changing her name:
When I started as an actor? No, and I’ll tell you why. I had already gone through that. My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”
Source: Huffington Post
Being a person of colour doesn’t set you apart because you are not white. It sets you apart because you have a whole different culture, and traditions that have been excluded for so long. Writing a book with a POC character and then forcing them into a mold you’ve created inside your head is not writing a diverse book. It just takes a person with a darker skin tone and shapes them into what you believe them to look like – because you’ve made no attempt in understanding what makes them different from you. And in doing so you’ve taken away an opportunity to really explore and share some much-needed insight.
So yes, I could pick up The Good Immigrant and read a story with experiences similar to Sef’s (not sure what ‘experiences’ are being referred to here, barely any of his experiences were unique to his culture/ethnicity.) But by sharing a perspective different from that of your own, you should know that you take on the responsibility of doing so fairly and insightfully – as if you were writing in your own voice.
In truth, I think this book would’ve been better if the author didn’t try to focus on so many different things. Or maybe, this book just simply wasn’t for me.
*A big thank you to Pan Macmillan South Africa for sending me a review copy of this book*