Happy Thursday, guys!
Today, we're reviewing Everything But the Truth by Mandy Hubbard. It's an If Only... novel, a series that I always look forward to reading, both for its stories and its awesome writing.
This was a cute story on a girl who believes that she needs to pretend someone else to keep up with a new romance, only to figure out that the truth always has more power.
Published November 17th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Format Read: ARC via publisher
Author Mandy Hubbard's spin on how two people from opposite side of the tracks, learn that they have more in common than realized, is a quick fun read that readers will definitely enjoy.
For anyone who has dreamed of their own Cinderella story, this romance shows that when it comes to true love, the best person to be is yourself!
Mandy Hubbard introduces us to yet another light-hearted, seemingly impossible romance, and shows how it can work, against all odds.
Things that worked:
I don't say this often about fictional characters, but I actually felt like I was learning from Holly while reading. Mandy Hubbard has done a great job of creating a character that is fully fleshed-out, with interests and a innately kind, likable personality that made me want to befriend her.
While Holly's inadvertent lies to Malik are definitely questionable, Hubbard does a great job of getting inside Holly's head, to show us just why Holly feels like she can't come clean with the truth yet. Life hasn't been solid for Holly up until this point, and at some level, Holly is still struggling - whether she realizes or not - with the idea that things may not last. Consequently, her decision to hide the truth about her identity makes perfect sense, and readers will understand this too.
As Kirkus stated in their own review of Everything but the Truth, Hubbard treads some familiar ground with this tale.
However, it's Hubbard's writing that absolutely helps elevate the story. Her details are rich and entertaining, including the fairy tale-esque dates that Malik plans for the far more practical Holly, and the background about the secondary residents that live in the nursing home. I was especially touched by Hubbard's tacit acknowledgement that just because an individual is wealthy, it doesn't mean that their lives at the nursing home are any easier, and how Holly learns from the residents who are struggling.
The nod to diversity
Hubbard does a nice job of creating an interracial relationship, without making it into a big deal. It's reflected nicely in the book.
It's a small thing, but it hasn't been that long since the debate on whitewashing in YA, so I absolutely appreciate this step forward.
The relationships angle
While the romance between Malik and Holly was very much a fairytale, it's Holly relationships with her friends and mother that I appreciated the most.
Hubbard builds a convincing and beautiful tapestry of the important relationships in Holly's life, and how each of these relationships have contributed to who she is today. Consequently, when Holly fears the loss of a friendship, Hubbard uses it as a great tool for showing Holly's burgeoning growth and maturity, and the evolution of that friendship.
While I had some slight issues with the romance aspect of the ending, I did appreciate Hubbard's overall approach to wrapping up the story. Holly handles the ups and downs of her relationships maturely, and learns how to adjust and let go as needed.
Her pragmatic approach to life, and Hubbard's subtle nudge toward the idea that Holly needs to focus on herself first and foremost, is a nice change from a stereotypical fluffy romance, and a great reminder to readers that it's their own futures that are important.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
I'm probably overthinking it, but I did feel that Hubbard's resolution for Holly and Malik was a little too abrupt.
While it's all good and well that the book ended with the requisite happy ending, I do think that Hubbard could have elaborated more on how Holly and Malik will work out their issues in the future. The pair have to become reacquainted to some degree - thanks to how their relationship initially developed - and I would have loved for Hubbard to elaborate on how they could be healthy and move forward.
While the story is one that has been seen in YA before, Mandy Hubbard's nuanced characterizations for Holly, makes her a likable character that readers will want to root for. Holly's struggles to tell Malik the truth, along with the moments where she lets her genuine personality and interests shine through, makes this a fun tale that will keep readers reading and engaged.
Strongly recommend to readers who are looking for fun, charming tale.