Kim finds out fast that when you insist on speaking the ugly truth, the consequences can be disastrous!
Scholastic Book Services titles can range from the weird to the weirder, but at their best they showcase relatable, kid-centric stories. So is the case with this week’s book, which has an eye for detail that is reminiscent of Beverly Cleary’s work.
The Plot: 12 year old Kimberly opens railing against the goddam adult phonies of the world:
What had set me off on this truth business was the lies I found all around me, including my own. I began counting once and gave up. I decided you’d need a computer to keep track of them. They’re all around, like germs.
This includes her mother telling people they look wonderful when they look like they have the plague, her father telling early-morning callers that he was totally already awake when the phone rang, her little brother’s overactive imagination and her teenage sister’s sparing the feelings of nerds who want to date her. She has a special contempt for the suburban subdivision that her family lives in, Squires’ Park Estates, which contains zero squires, parks or estates.
Still, Kim is delighted when Alison, the new girl in her class, turns out live down the block and they have so much in common! They have snotty older sisters and everything! She immediately starts making plans to have a secret language for their secret club called The Dachs, after their matching dachshund pins.
However, Kim’s scheming goes awry when she puts off writing her book report until the last minute. When her parents refuse to drive her to the library the night before it is due, she decides to fake the whole thing, making it up on the spot, Keyser Sӧze-style:
On the front wall there was a picture of a lady in a field of brownish grass. She was looking up at a house on a hill.
“The House on the Hill,” I said.
Mr. Barber wrote it down. “The name of the author, if you please.”
Roberta Lawson, sitting in the front row, snickered and looked at William Reeves. They both get A’s in everything. Two creeps.
“Robert L.R. Williams.” Two middle initials made the name different enough to be convincing, I thought.
Kim gets away with the ruse, but she has to admit that it was more trouble than it was worth, since it was ten times harder to make up a story to report on than it would have been to just read a book in the first place.
And there is unexpected fallout, when she misses a question in her history class, having skipped the homework to write her fake book report. Humiliated, she vows never to lie again, writing out a pledge and signing it in blood!
Kim and Alison make plans to get together that afternoon to make hairspray cozies to give to their older sisters for Christmas, but first Alison has to go with her mother to get her hair cut. Kim is thrilled, because now they will look EVEN more alike!
Kim is in for a surprise when Alison shows up at her front door with her new look:
“What happened?” I asked
“I told them I only wanted it a little shorter, but they gave me a pixie.”
Her hair was much shorter than Peter’s. It didn’t even cover her ears. I kept staring and shaking my head.
“What do you think?” she asked, showing me the back.
I never considered telling her anything but the truth. “It’s awful. It makes you look ugly.”
Kim and Alison’s mothers intervene, but when Kim calls to apologize, she only makes things worse (“Why don’t we call the beauty shop and tell them to save the hair. They can make you a wig”).
Kim is ostracized by her friends at school for her brutal truth-telling, and gets in hot water with her family for telling her younger brother that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. By the time the community Christmas party rolls around, Kim is miserable and friendless, but still refuses to go back on her blood-oath.
Who is going to right this whole mess? The eccentric old lady in the neighborhood who used to be a silent movie actress, Mrs. Desmond:
“Heavens above! If we had to live with nothing but the truth, how dull that would be! We’d have no plays, no movies.”
Inspired by Mrs. Desmond’s advice (and somewhat cheered by the fact that her brother doesn’t actually seem at that upset about Santa being pretend), Kim races to Alison’s house, only to find her in her bathrobe in the middle of the day. Is she sick? Dying? Kim fantasizes about nursing her friend back to health and gaining the gratitude of her family!
It turns out that Alison is actually just getting ready for the party, but Kim isn’t letting go of the idea so quickly:
“We could play nurse. We could take turns being sick, just lying quietly on my bed, not getting our clothes mussed up. The one who’s the nurse can bring trays of tea and toast and stuff. We could have strange diseases. I could have mononucleosis and you can have sickle cell anemia.”
Alison is all like “Uh, weird”, but is at least speaking to Kim again.
Kim decides that she will make her New Year’s resolution to tell the truth at all times, except when it is absolutely necessary to be a goddam phony.
What Is Going On Here? Department: Another astute reviewer points out that this cover is weird.
Sign It Was Written In 1975 Department: