Genres: Young Adult, Thriller
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When four Long Island teens plot to meet Fatima Ro, the elusive author of their favorite novel, they're stunned when she befriends them and invites them into her eccentric life. Suddenly their lives seem charmed, and as they grow closer to their idol, they find themselves revealing their darkest secrets to her.
But a year later, Miri, Soleil, Jonah and Penny are shocked to discover that Fatima's newly released YA novel is based on those same secrets. The revelations are devastating, and they can't escape the spotlight. The friends' interview transcripts, emails, and journal entries reveal how willing they were to sacrifice everything to win Fatima's approval - and how those sacrifices led to a tragedy from which one of them will never recover.
It’s so disappointing when you pick up a book thinking it’s going to be entirely different to what it actually was. I thought All of This is True was going to be an exciting thriller about an author stalking a group of teens, but instead, it’s about a gossipy group of private school girls who idolise an author.
Part of my disconnect with the book, was because of the way it was written. Most of the book occurs over an interview with some of the characters, who are being interviewed by the press about how they got to know the author. It’s interchanged with chat logs, diary entries, and excerpts of Fatima Ro’s new book – which is based on the character’s lives. Usually I don’t have a problem with multi-format books, but the characters didn’t really have strong, defining personalities to make them stand out.
During these interviews, we find out about the group’s obsession with Fatima Ro, one of their favourite authors who recently moved into the area. Fatima quickly befriends the girls, and it’s obvious that they place her on a pedastal like some sort of idol worship. I found these scenes to be incredibly cringey and dramaticised, especially with how the girls are OMG SO IMPRESSED that they are in the same vicinity of Fatima and the way they hooked on to every word. They even compete for her attention, which I found completely eye-rolling. Let me just say, it was easy to see how the author took advantage of them because they were so obsessed with her.
Not only does the novel talk about an adult’s manipulation of teenage girls, from an older female, Fatima also manipulates and gains the trust of a teenage boy called Jonah. She encourages Jonah and Soleil to get together, despite some of their reservations they have with it, and it gets so disturbing at times. One particular scene had me dropping the book on the floor because it was so disturbing – in the book excerpt of Fatima’s new book, she writes about how Brady/Jonah fantasises about being with both women at once (one of them being the author herself).
As we get further into the book, you can definitely see the parallels unfolding between Fatima’s new book and the conversations/occurrences that she has with the teenagers. It’s pretty much a word for word recount of the events that were happening, except with the names changed. Fatima was so creepy at times and there were so many warning bells – but all the characters were so problematic that no one even realises that there’s anything wrong, which grated on me so much.
Whether it’s narcissism, manipulation or something more sinister, we never really find out Fatima’s side of the story which was also really annoying. I found it annoying how the novel focused on the perspectives of Soleil, Miri and Penny who were clearly more into the gossip and attention rather than realising there was something wrong with the power dynamic at play here. They also make some really problematic remarks about Jonah and his past mistakes and behaviour, showing that they have no compassion at all. They acted like spoilt, insipid brats who thrived on drama rather than real people who formed real, genuine friendships and connections with others.
All of This is True is one of those books where the concept is actually a lot better than the execution – had it been written in a more engaging way, and with more of a point to the plot about sinister adult manipulations, I would have liked it a lot more. Instead, it ends up being a gossipy, drama-filled story about teens who are loving being in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. I really disliked the way it had ended as well, and found it over the top and unrealistic. In the end, I think All of This is True would probably translate better in TV or movie format, rather than a multi-format book.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a review copy of the book.
All of This is True is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99 or from The Book Depository.