True (…Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan
Delly Pattison wasn’t always bad. She used to have a smile that went “up to her eyeballs” and a penchant for mashing words together to create new, wonderful ideas. The trouble started when she was 6 years old and let all the chickens out of their cages at the county fair (she wanted to set them free). From then on, it seemed that everything she did branded her as bad, bad, BAD. By the time Delly was eleven, “she took a turn. And it wasn’t for the better.”
Delly is on her last chance with her school and with the town police officer, when a new kid comes to town. Ferris Boyd doesn’t speak and hates being touched, but Delly sees her as a “surpresent” – a present that’s a surprise. Delly inserts herself into Ferris’ life, bringing along her little brother RB. Even though Ferris doesn’t speak, she teaches Delly how to listen, and more importantly, how to ask the right questions. Delly and RB know Ferris doesn’t speak for a reason, and they create a hideaway, a place where she can feel safe.
And then something terrible happens, and Delly has to make it right, which is not easy when you have such a reputation for trouble.
This is a wonderful story with characters that spring off the pages. I felt Delly’s pain and understood why she became the way she did. I worried for Ferris and fell in love with RB. Delly’s word mash-ups made me smile, as I rooted for her to leave the trouble behind.
True (…Sort of) is a California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) Award nominee in the intermediate fiction category. The other nominees are A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean and Wildwood by Colin Meloy. In my post about A Dog Called Homeless, I wrote that if the other two nominees were as well-written, then California students would have a tough decision voting for their favorite. True (…Sort of) is certainly well-written and I would be hard-pressed to say which of the two is my favorite. I do not envy the students that have to choose between these two excellent books.