In this debut novel by Dan Gemeinhart, the reader meets thirteen year old Mark who dreams of climbing a mountain one day. Like any normal kid, he has a dog and best friend; he also likes to write haiku and take photos. But Mark is not a normal kid; he has cancer – again.
The Honest Truth is about a young teen’s decision to pursue his dream after receiving a diagnosis that the cancer has returned and the outlook is not favorable. So Mark runs away, taking his faithful dog Beau, a camera, his notebook, and a plan. Careful planning on Mark’s part allows him to throw the police and others off his trail and to actually reach Mount Rainier.
Unfortunately a winter storm develops, complicating things as he and Beau attempt the climb up the mountain. Will they make it to the top of the mountain alive, or will they fail in their attempt as they battle the weather, fatigue, side effects of the cancer, and the dangerous terrain of the mountain?
Gemeinhart pens an excellent first novel, told mostly in Mark’s voice (alternating with Jessie’s thoughts about whether she should keep Mark’s secret, once she figures out where he is headed). More than a novel about a teen dying, The Honest Truth is about friendship and making every day count. It is about going on the adventure of a lifetime. However, due to its subject matter, it can be a little intense for younger readers. It is suggested The Honest Truth be read and discussed between adults and teens.
Recommended for school and public libraries. Would make a good book for discussion in families about making choices as young teens.
Carol R. Gehringer
—reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, 2015.