The Honest Truth Review: Honest, Heartbreaking and Full of Haikus

May 11, 2016 by Jenna | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

The Honest Truth Review: Honest, Heartbreaking and Full of HaikusThe Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
Published by Chicken House on March 5th 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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Mark is like anyone else his age. He loves his dog, his best friend Jessie and hiking. But he also has cancer.

When his illness returns, he decides he's had enough of hospitals and treatments. So Mark runs away from it all, with just his small dog for company - and a big plan to climb to the top of Mount Rainier, even if it's the last thing he does...

A rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments and undying friendships.

I live for sad books. I love them with a passion and the more that a book can make me ugly-cry, the better. So it wasn’t really a huge surprise that I absolutely fell in love with The Honest Truth.

This book is about 12-year-old Mark, who has been battling cancer on and off since he was 5. When he finds out that his cancer is back, he decides to leave his family and take a trip to Mount Rainier with only his dog, Beau. He doesn’t leave his parents any clues and only his best friend, Jessie, has any idea of where he might be. Along the way, Mark encounters multiple hardships and we slowly find out the reason why Mark is taking this trip. It was a really heart-wrenching and brutally honest story about a child who’s sick and tired of dealing with illness, and chooses instead to run away and disappear.

Dying and living. It’s all such a mess. That’s the truth. It made me mad. A sad kind of angry.

This book was quite dark and hard-hitting. Mark is an angry kid, and this anger at the world and how unfair everything is really came across to me in the story. During this trip, Mark goes through things that no child should ever have to go through and I was amazed by his determination and his resilience. The journey to Mount Rainier was by no means easy, physically and mentally, and I really felt how dark Mark’s thoughts were throughout the book. It was really difficult for me to watch a sick boy struggle through all the things he went through willingly, and I just wanted to wrap him up in bubble wrap and keep him safe from harm forever. His thoughts get progressively darker throughout the book and his suffering came through so clearly to me that it was hard to continue reading at times. The tone of the book was not only dark and sad, but also incredibly lonely. Even though Mark travels to Mount Rainier with the company of his dog, there were times when the book felt very solitary and cold. I think it’s a book that you need to be in the right headspace to read.

I really liked Mark’s character in this novel. He was a scared but angry child who doesn’t really know how to deal with his recurring illness. He’s so tired of being the cancer kid that he wants to escape and do something just for himself. Even though he was physically weak, the book really showcased how mentally strong he could be. He was determined to fight for what he wanted and push the boundaries, even though his ultimate goal was a terrifying place. I also absolutely loved Beau in this story. If you’ve read the Chaos Walking trilogy and loved the relationship between Todd and Manchee, you will love Mark and Beau in this book. The two go through so many things together and it was Beau’s companionship that really helped Mark survive when things got tough, and then really tough. Beau was such a loyal friend and it’s a relationship that I’ll remember for a long time.

“Look at Beau,” she said. “Do you think he’d let anything happen to you? Do you think he’d ever let you be by yourself or fight something alone?”

The writing in this story was both simple and poetic. There were lots of beautiful haikus in this book and I thought they really added to the emotion of the story. I never felt like I was being overwhelmed by poetry though because the writing was so easy to read and understand. Having said that, I also thought that the writing was quite sophisticated for a middle grade book. The writing style was right up my alley and I highly enjoyed the reading experience. In this book, we not only get to read about Mark’s story from his first person perspective, but there are also chapters that feature Mark’s parents and his best friend as they worry about his whereabouts. I loved the addition of those chapters because they made the whole situation real for me; Mark’s not just a boy on a journey – he has a family who loves him and is worried about him. I also liked that we got to see Jessie’s struggle as she tries to decide whether or not to tell Mark’s parents about his whereabouts and as she comes to terms with what Mark’s illness means for their friendship.


This was honestly a truly beautiful story about strength and resilience in the face of adversity. Mark’s journey across Washington State was poignant and heartbreaking, and I felt like I was there with him every step of the way.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Thanks to Scholastic Australia for providing a copy of the book.


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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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13 responses to “The Honest Truth Review: Honest, Heartbreaking and Full of Haikus

  1. Yes! I thought we were going to have another Manchee and Todd moment and was freaking out so much at the end. And when THAT THING happened, I was about to throw the book across the room in rage, but it was all okay.

    • I don't read a lot of sick lit but there's something about middle grade sick lit that really appeals to me. And this one was definitely really well done and hit me hard in the feels.

  2. Braine-Talk Supe

    Poetry isn't the same these days anymore and haikus looks so simple until you attempt to write one. This does sound like a beautiful book

    • I love it when I see poetry in books. I know that I could never write poetry, which makes me appreciate it so much more. And that's the same with books written in free verse.

    • I hadn't heard much about it either but I saw it on Jesse the Reader's booktube channel and he really loves this author so I thought I'd give it a try. It's a quick read but super hard-hitting. You'll get all the feels!

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