Inventive, electrifying and daring, True Story is a novel like nothing you’ve read before.
After a college party, two boys drive a girl home: drunk and passed out in the back seat. Rumours spread about what they did to her, but later they’ll tell the police a different version of events. Alice will never remember what truly happened. Her fracture runs deep, hidden beneath cleverness and wry humour. Nick – a sensitive, misguided boy who stood by – will never forget.
That’s just the beginning of this extraordinary journey into memory, fear and self-portrayal. Through university applications, a terrifying abusive relationship, a fateful reckoning with addiction and a final mind-bending twist, Alice and Nick will take on different roles to each other – some real, some invented – until finally, brought face to face once again, the secret of that night is revealed.
Startlingly relevant and enthralling in its brilliance, True Story is by turns a campus novel, psychological thriller, horror story and crime noir, each narrative stripping away the fictions we tell about women, men and the very nature of truth. It introduces Kate Reed Petty as a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction.
Wow! What a book, totally unputdownable for me. I have seen this book described as genre bending and it is true, it is hard to categorize as it moves swiftly through the lives of 2 key characters. I particularly like the term ‘campus novel’ and this book starts when these kids are in college. The lacrosse team are hugely successful, winning the state championships and with the success comes parties, drink and girls. These are teenagers, so it is never clear how much is happening with girls and in the parts from Nick’s perspective we know his experiences with the opposite sex are much less than he would have his peers believe. The author captures well the machoism of the male group of lacrosse players and this includes bravado references about girls. It’s thus easy to envisage the situation in the car with the very drunk girl unfold and this event – of which little is actually known, shapes the lives of those involved as they move into adulthood.
Told predominantly from the perspectives of Alice and Nick, the writing is unique, very engaging, but not necessarily fluid. These 2 key characters link in with others and a larger picture is formed of essentially the aftermath of an alleged rape. For Alice her life goes off track immediately, affecting her education and subsequent relationships. We witness the psychological trauma of being the victim of such an assault and the aftermath, the notoriety that followed of being that girl in that car, so drunk. The shame and blame for the girl is cringeworthy and tangible and something that can’t be shredded. For Nick, his life doesn’t follow the expected trajectory and both stories at different times make difficult but compelling reading.
The book was a rollercoaster, in part due to the pace of the changing genre. The horror part was shocking, creepy and uncomfortable. Moving into the psychological thriller was another sinister and shocking section, concluding with the clever crime noir. Exploring the notion of truth, this book surprised me, although to say more would risk spoiling. The book is thought provoking, the genre’s flow together well and worked to build an authentic and brilliant story, which skilfully explored the impact of trauma. A brilliant twist at the end gave me pause for thought and a moment to reflect on how good the book was and how apt the title.
At times I had to pause, collect my thoughts and ascertain who was telling the story, dates were useful at the start of sections, although the story was told chronologically.
A note about the book covers – the proofs of the book had four different covers, to represent the different genres in the story. Buying the book I choose the campus novel cover and it was this aspect of the story that was my favourite, an unconscious choice perhaps?
About the Author
Kate Reed Petty lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has been published by Electric Literature, American Short Fiction, Los Angeles Review of Books Blog, and many others, and her short films have appeared on Narrative magazine and at the Maryland Film Festival. She is also co-author of the children’s graphic novel Chasma Knights, with Boya Sun. Petty graduated from the College of William & Mary and she holds a master of letters in fiction writing from the University of St Andrews.