The Truth About Us
By Janet Gurtler
April, 7 2015
Praise for Janet Gurtler
Flynn’s from the wrong side of the tracks, but he may be just right for Jess…
The truth is that Jess knows she’s screwed up. She’s made mistakes, even betrayed her best friend, and now she’s paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
The truth is that she wishes she was the carefree party girl everyone thinks she is. She pretends it’s all fine. That her “perfect” family is fine. But it’s not. And no one notices the lie…until she meets Flynn. He’s the only one who really sees her. The only one who really listens.
The truth is that Jess is falling apart, and no one seems to care. But Flynn is the definition of “the wrong side of the tracks.” When Jess’s parents look at him, they only see their differences, not how much she and Flynn need each other. They don’t get that the person who shouldn’t fit into your world might just be the one who makes you feel like you belong.
RITA Award finalist Janet Gurtler’s young adult books have been chosen for the Junior Library Guild Selection and as Best Books For Teens from the Canadian Children’s Book Center. She has had her writing compared to Judy Blume and Jodi Picoult and that makes her happy. She has volunteered at a few soup kitchens and hopes to do more. Giving back is so important. Janet lives in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada, with her husband, son, and a chubby black Chihuahua named Bruce.
The greenhouse is sort of shaped like an old barn. It’s opaque with plastic and steel siding. The door is open, and I follow Wilf inside and pause and then breathe it in. The smell nourishes me. Moist air fills my lungs. I’ve forgotten how much the scents of greenery soothe me. It reminds me of different times. Simpler times.
“Nice,” I tell him, looking around at rows of plants on tabletops and plants stacked on the floor. I realize I’ve missed the satisfaction of nurturing plants.
There’s a man on a ladder in the middle of the greenhouse, fixing a shelf, with his back to us. A little boy stands at the bottom of the ladder, watching. Wilf walks over and pats his head and kneels down to his level. “How are ya, big guy?”
The little boy stands taller and giggles and holds out his hand. He’s got it wrapped tightly around a plastic blue train.
The man on the ladder turns and looks down at me. My heart stops.
It’s not a man at all. It’s him.
|My face burns.|
“What are you doing here?” he asks.
Wilf frowns and then looks at me. “What’s up with you kids these days? In my time, we treated nice--looking young ladies with respect,” he says to Flynn gruffly. “Flynn, this is Jess. She volunteers here.”
I say a silent thank--you to him for calling me nice--looking and glance back at Flynn.
“Since when?” he asks.
“Since now. How about, ‘hello, nice to meet you’?” Wilf says to prompt both of us. “Is that so hard?”
“We’ve already met,” Flynn says.
My cheeks stay on fire as he climbs down the ladder.
“The shelf is fixed,” he says to Wilf. “Slumming?” he adds to me as he jumps to the floor. He folds up the ladder and then leans it against a counter lined with plants.
The little boy stares back and forth.
I try to think of something light and witty to save the moment, but my mind is blank. Instead, I panic. “What’d you do to get stuck working at this place?” I say, channeling my inner Nance.
“What’d I do?” He stares at me and then his lips turn up. “I didn’t have the right daddy, I guess. I’m here to have lunch. With my little brother. I’m not a volunteer.”
My stomach drops. Fail. Epic fail.
I really enjoyed this story a lot. Jess has screwed up one too many times and as punishment, her parents are making her 'volunteer' at a homeless shelter. At first Jess is bitter that her parents would go to these lengths. She knows she made mistakes, but she also knows that she is sorry about them and wishes that more people could really see the real 'Jess'.
At the shelter, Jess meets Wilf, another volunteer who runs the greenhouse. She also meets Flynn - who is NOT a volunteer, but who often comes in to eat lunch and sometimes dinner with his little brother. Jess does a lot of embarrassing and insulting things in Flynn's presence and he is extremely put off by her, but somehow, they navigate their way through to the connection that is sitting just beneath the surface.
Jess's family life is not as perfect as they would have you believe. Her mother suffers from depression and her older sister is never home. Jess has spent a lot of time on her own or taking responsibility for things that should never have fallen to her. While this doesn't excuse a lot of her behavior, it certainly helped open my heart toward giving her another chance.
While this is a love story, at it's roots it's a story of growth and redemption. At the beginning you are inclined not to like Jess very much. As the story moves forward and she slowly lets Wilf and Flynn in, you see that she is trying and while she may not understand a lot of what she is now facing, she is doing the best she can to learn and grow and accept people as they are.
There were a lot of surprising moments for me and I loved that this story seemed to be truly unique and unpredictable.
What kept it from being 5 stars? We learn some things about Jess's friend Nance that were just left hanging. I guess I was hoping for more of a resolution.
4 out of 5 Stars
Paramore - Brick by Boring Brick
I chose this song because Jess tried to see life as a Fairy Tale and she learned through this book that sometimes life could even be better.