Less than a year ago, while reviewing “Atty at Law” by Tim Lockette, I included the hope that writer Anniston Star’s best-selling debut novel would be the first in a long series.
Now we have “Tell It True,” again with a teenage heroine, but where the first novel was mid-level fiction, it’s young adult fiction.
“Atty” was set in a town 20 miles north of the Florida line. “Tell It True” is set north of Birmingham on a large lake, possibly Guntersville, but called here, inexplicably, Beachside: “Where the upper middle class Yankees come to build their second homes.”
The first novel starred a girl in the summer after her sixth year, saving the life of an innocent dog and also solving a murder case, a pretty serious one. This novel is even more serious.
Lisa Rives, 14, is in her second year of high school.
She is not considered very pretty. She is not particularly popular, but she is very bright and an independent thinker. Do these conditions go together?
She is a worried child. His mom and dad argue a lot, over every little thing it seems to him.
Looks like mom is harassing dad, BUT Lisa is worried that her dad, who works in Huntsville four days a week, is having an affair with his assistant, a pretty young French girl named Denise.
Lisa tries to investigate this possibility and everything around her. She wants to know “What people are really doing. How they really live. She said, “I want to know the truth”; she has the mind of a journalist.
Then, as it turns out, she becomes editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, a small, unambitious publication, covering almost exclusively, “Cheerleaders are organizing a car wash to raise money for the ball.”
But Lisa wants to do more, spread bigger stories, even if they’re still local.
The adviser to the newspaper, “Beachside Bulletin”, is one of our American heroes – the dedicated high school teacher. Ms. Blanderson encourages Lisa, even gets her a subscription to the Columbia Journalism Review, but Blanderson isn’t sure when Lisa’s big opportunity will present itself.
In Atmore, the state of Alabama will organize an execution, which will be carried out by lethal injection. The murder took place in their county and state regulations state that a representative of a newspaper in the county where the crime was committed is entitled to a pass to witness the execution. The only newspaper in their county is the school newspaper.
Lisa requests the pass to attend the execution and controversy erupts.
She is only 14 years old. Are you OK ?
More importantly, is the school paper a “REAL” paper?
If not, why not?
During the course of the novel, Lisa has to face a lot of pressures. His home life, as mentioned. At school too, life gets more complicated. She was losing friends and had no more to spare.
There is also an involved boy, Nolan Ramsey, “muscular and tanned with a mop of a bleached blonde-haired surfer,” an athlete and, to any sane reader, unworthy.
Lisa is advised by the wise Mrs. Blanderson who points out that their article is as “real” as they make it, that journalism is difficult; it takes discipline and courage. You can lose friends as a result of a controversial story.
As you might expect, there are discussions about the death penalty itself.
Much of this novel is pretty serious, but “Tell It True” is still quite humorous. Lisa has a sharp wit, and Lockette seems to have nailed a lot of the high school nonsense, which we perhaps only faintly remember.
If, in fact, adults are still giving away children’s books for Christmas, this would be a great choice for a young lady you know.
Don Noble’s latest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson and eleven other Alabama authors.
“Tell it true”
Author: Tim Lockette
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Price: $ 18.95 (Hardcover)