Goodreads: Absolutely Truly
Published: 4 Nov. 2014
Twelve-year-old Truly Lovejoy is truly loving her life in Texas, until her father is injured in Afghanistan. Unable to find work, her father moves his family back to his hometown, tiny Pumpkin Falls all the way in New Hampshire. Truly likes that her father and her aunt are taking over the family business, a bookstore, but dreads being the new kid in school yet again–after all, she towers over her peers and the jokes about being “truly gigantic” quickly get old. But the discovery of a cryptic note in a first edition of Charlotte’s Web adds adventure and mystery to a town that Truly had initially thought was the most boring place on earth.
Absolutely Truly is one of those delightful coming-of-age stories that focuses on friendship and everyday magic, making the lives of the readers seem a little more magical in the process. From the first few pages when Truly finds her life disrupted, torn from her best friend Mackenzie, estranged from her father who struggles to accept his war injury, and thrust into a community that seems too quaint to be real, it is evident that this book means to position itself along some of the great middle-grade books. The ones that are real, touching upon issues like PTSD, bullying, loneliness, and the struggle to accept oneself. But also with the ones that offer hope and the freedom for readers to fly. Absolutely Truly blends the doubt and difficulties of preteen life with just the right amount of optimism to create a story that will speak to the heart of anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, lost, or just plain awkward.
“Charming” comes to mind as the best word to describe this story. From its small town setting to its quirky names to its emphasis on friendship and self-discovery, Absolutely Truly lays it on thick, but owns unabashedly its delight in the odd and the serendipitous. Truly herself comments on the absurdities around her, poking fun at the ways of Pumpkin Falls and commenting on some of the inhabitants’ outrageous names. But, of course, she secretly enjoys it all–and the book expects its readers to enjoy it, as well.
The book further bridges the gap between story and reader by filling its pages with references to other literary works. Shakespeare plays a large role in the mystery that Truly and her friends seek to solve, but children’s classics also get many nods, whether their titles are mentioned as being in the hands of one Truly’s sisters or as the pick of the week for one of the bookstore’s reading clubs. Owl Moon figures more largely, representing the type of relationship Truly wishes she could have with her father. The scattered mentions throughout the work testify to the power of words to shape lives and to offer comfort and hope.
Absolutely Truly possesses the rare magic of staying with readers even after the story has finished. Its charming cast of characters, quaint setting, love of books, and sheer playfulness all contribute to making it a deeply satisfying and enjoyable read–the kind that can make readers believe life is good even when they can see pieces of Truly’s life falling apart around her. I hope that we see future books set in the enchanting town of Pumpkin Falls.