When Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station four years ago, they weren’t expected to ever return. So when Judith did, two years later, but with her tongue cut out, unable to speak, she was shunned by her town. Now, Judith lives the life of a ghost, unable to speak what she witnessed, silently telling Lucas, her childhood friend and love, all that she thinks and feels. When the town comes under attack, Judith must make a decision: continue to be silent, or be heard for once.
Julie Berry’s debut novel is haunting, poetic, and completely memorable. Berry creates an incredibly unforgettable narrator in Judith, and raises some hard questions for both her heroine and the book’s readers. Which is worse: not being able to speak at all, or speaking the truth and having no one believe you?
This is the question that frames this suspenseful novel. Berry’s novel is told through Judith, but because she is mute and illiterate, readers spend much of their time inside her head, where she directs many of her thoughts to her childhood friend Lucas in a second-person narration that works beautifully. Because readers spend so much time inside her head, Berry is able to authentically portray how isolated and alone Judith is. It’s effective, chilling, and builds suspense.
The novel takes place in the past, but Berry doesn’t give the reader any real clues as to where or when it takes place. Most will be able to discern that it takes place somewhere in North America, most likely during the eighteenth century, but the frustratingly vague setting keeps readers on their toes. The society in which Judith lives is evocative of the Puritans, and there’s more than one mention of the society’s religiousness and devotion to Jesus.
None of that really matters, though, because Berry has done such a wonderful job with the character of Judith. Even though much of the novel’s rising action takes place in the first third, she manages to keep building suspense throughout the novel, culminating in a satisfying ending that readers will stay up late to get to.
Recommended. There’s a lot to unpack here.
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry. Viking Juvenile: 2013. Library copy read for the 2013 Cybils.