Nothing But the Truth: (and a Few White Lies)
Justina Chen Headley
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ustina Chen Headley's writing seems to me to have similar roots to that of Amy Tan, but in a lighter, funnier YA style. Unlike her big Harvard-bound brother Abe, Patty Ho - who's half-Taiwanese and half-white - can do nothing to please the hardworking, controlling, nagging mother who constantly embarrasses her and forces her to drink '
' (Patty calls it '
'). Interspersed through the story are excerpts from '
The Mama Lecture Series
' - with titles like '
You Have It So Easy
' and '
You Shame Family Honor
' - and logical Patty's own math
on one side and
on the other.
atty is not allowed to date, so while her friends are at Spring Fling, she's having her fortune read by
, who foretells a '
' for her. At school, Patty is constantly bullied by racist Steve Kosanko, who even spits in her face, while the boy she had a crush on watches. Her mother bulldozes over her, the latest example being her decision to send Patty to summer math camp at Stanford. Patty wonders why her father really left them so many years before, and wishes she were white like the majority of her peers. And she agonizes over her Honors English assignment - to write an essay of self-discovery entitled '
The Truth, and nothing but the Truth
ath camp changes everything. Patty befriends her roommate Jasmine, who introduces her to the joys of being
(half-Asian and half-white), tells her that '
being smart is sexy
', and teaches her
. Patty also gets to know her schoolmate Anne, whom she always dismissed as '
' but sees much more in now. The TA/camp counselor Brian, who looks like a surfer, dispenses good advice and support. And then there's hot Taiwanese Stu, who shows an immediate interest in Patty, which she quickly reciprocates. Patty blossoms at math camp, intellectually and socially, until her mother shows up to tear down every fragile bit of self esteem she's built up.
atty persuades her mom to let her stay on, living with Auntie Lu. She begins to learn things about her mother's life, about the father she always wondered about, and about her own past nightmares and present strengths. And she finishes her English essay with flair, earning an A+.
Nothing But the Truth
is a sweet,
coming of age story, about a young woman who feels an outsider in her family and her life, but learns how valued she has always been.
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