Berry, J. (2013). All the truth that’s in me. New York, NY: Viking.
Plot Summary: When Judith returns home with her tongue cut after being missing for two years she finds a cold reception. She can’t speak and few speak to her in fact most of the town ignores her until she brings Ezra Whiting, her captor, back to save the town. After Ezra dies in battle the townspeople realize some things don’t add up and start to wonder if he is responsible for Judith’s capture and her friends murder. Meanwhile Judith has started speaking again and is even trying to learn to read and write, hoping to move on from what as happened. Instead she is drawn even deeper in and accused of several crimes until finally she finds her voice and in speaking up for herself realizes who the true killer is.
Critical Evaluation: The book is divided into three sections, Before, After, and Now. After is the largest section of the book and is composed of several books itself. The chapters in the book are numbered in roman numerals and can vary in length from a single paragraph to several pages. There is no page break between these chapters and this constant flow may make it hard for some readers. This can be complicated by the way Judith jumps around through her memories and what is currently happening. As the book continues her thoughts grow more organized and there is less jumping around. While this style helps demonstrate Judith’s character development it can also confuse some readers. This story is a great example of character development as readers clearly see how broken Judith is by her mother’s and the town’s rejection of her when she returns. She slowly builds confidence after befriending Maria who encourages her to speak. Later in the book she saves her brother which does not encourage anymore kindness from her mother but does make him realize her intelligence and help her attend school. Even with this encouragement she is still afraid to speak up for herself when the town charges her with a series of crimes she did not commit. It is not until she is sure the boy she has loved her whole life will believe her that she finally finds the strength to speak up. Until that moment she does not believe anyone will believe her, and prior to Maria’s taking and interest in her she did not believe anyone would listen to her because of her mother’s treatment of her when she first returned.
Reader’s Annotation: When Judith returns unable to speak the townspeople believe her cursed and refuse to speak to her but Judith knows some dangerous information and needs to find her voice to warn the town.
Author Information: Julie Berry has written several books for youth and All the Truth That’s in me was her first book for young adults. She grew up in New York and currently lives in Eastern Massachusetts.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Curriculum Ties: This would be a great example of character development.
Booktalk Ideas: 1) What do you think the title means?
2) Which character do you think is most responsible for taking Judith’s voice away and which character is most responsible for helping her regain it?
Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for ages 12-17 which fits though I would be most likely to recommend it to teen readers. There is quite a bit of violence and inappropriate sexual advances made toward the main character that may make this inappropriate for some younger readers. This may also be triggering for readers of all ages so you may want to warn readers about this content when recommending the book.
Challenge Issues: There is violence and the main character faces multiple instances of unwanted sexual advances and contact which may be triggering for some readers and some parents may object that it is too mature. However the book avoids being overly graphic about the violence and the sexual advances are an important part of the story and not gratuitous. The book has been nominated for several awards and won the The Inky Award for Silver Inky.
Why is it included?: We read this book for class and I really enjoyed it and the discussion we had about it. I think this would be a great book to discuss for a teen book club. I also think it is a great book to suggest to fans of the book Speak as there are a lot of similarities between the main characters of both books.