The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Published by Scholastic Press

Summary:  “The mountain was calling me.”  12-year-old Dan is running away from home with his dog Beau.  As the story unfolds, the reader learns that Dan has had cancer for 5 years.  He was in remission, but the cancer has returned.  Unable to face more treatment, he has decided to fulfill a life-long dream to climb Mount Rainier, even if it means he dies in the attempt.  Most chapters are told by Dan, but there are short half chapters (e.g., Chapter 9 ½) that tell what’s happening back home from the point of view of his best friend Jessie.  Some of these half chapters include Jessie’s memories, which serve as flashbacks that flesh out Dan’s story.  There may be a few tears at the ending, but there is a bit of hope there, too.

Pros:  Dan encounters numerous obstacles, including confronting a gang of kids who beat him up and rob him, getting kicked off a bus in the middle of nowhere on a cold snowy day, and having to rescue his dog from falling down a crevasse.  Readers will have a tough time putting this book down until they find out whether or not Dan makes it to the summit of Rainier, and more importantly, back down again.  Fans of The Fault in our Stars will enjoy this.

Cons:  I’m not a fan of The Fault in our Stars.  Like the characters in that book, Dan and Jessie did not ring true to me.  Dan was a little too into reflecting on his life and writing about it (in haiku, no less) in his journal.  Although Jessie and Dan call themselves “best friends”, there was definitely a romantic, you-and-me-against-the-world quality to their friendship that didn’t quite ring true for 12 year olds.  While the book was a quick read for me, the characters didn’t engage me, leaving me to ultimately not care a great deal what happened to them.

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