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.
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Hello Jeann, I like it little bit. But I would like to know more about author’s motivation. I would like some story links from the article. Thank you so much!
Oh no 🙁 I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy this one, Jeann! I remember when I found it on Goodreads I thought the premise sounded so creepy and I thought it would be awesome. But it sounds like the execution failed for this one. I think it’s interesting you said it would work better as a film or TV show! I sometimes read a book and think the exact same thing because sometimes the story and suspense don’t work in the written format. I’m sorry this one didn’t work out and I hope you live your next read!
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Yeah it was just kind of disjointed and frustrating to read I guess because of the characters and the way it was set out! Thank you lovely <3
I finished it recently, and wrote my own review on my blog. I liked the idea, but not the way it worked out. To be honest, I prefer a novel where there is at least one character I can care about. I thought Penny might be the one till I realised she was just upset because she wasn’t getting attention from her heroine. All this might well have been deliberate, but not for me. I’m not saying teens won’t like it, though. If I still had a library I’d hand it to one of my book clubbers for an opinion.
Yeah Penny kind of felt like she fell to the background but was annoying after a while too because of how passive she is. I definitely think teens would be interested in it though!
Oh, that’s so sad it’s a disappointment, because the premise sounds SO good! I could see how this would sell well in our community though, because we’re all about loving our authors and all that. It’s too bad it didn’t live up to it. The concept indeed does sound incredible.
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I know, it definitely hits close to home doesn’t it? It’s definitely a book I would’ve still picked up even if the reviews weren’t great!
I’ve been waiting for a review for this because I thought it would be super interesting and I want to support more POC authors but ugh, Kinda disappointed it was gossipy and stuff.
Yeah, that’s exactly why I was so disappointed because the premise was awesome as well! I’m sure others would like this one though.
YEP yep yep. Could not agree more! I couldn’t tell who was even narrating half the time. Granted, some of it was the eARC formatting, but it shouldn’t have been SO hard to figure out which bratty girl was which hah. And I totally agree that the whole Jonah thing was problematic. It bothered me a lot. And you made SUCH a good point- they were focused on the WRONG STUFF. The power dynamic was definitely the worst part, but it was totally glossed over! Awesome review Jeann, sorry that this didn’t work for you either!
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Oh man, that was pretty annoying! Yeah, I think there was so much potential which made it so frustrating for me! Glad I wasn’t the only one about the Jonah stuff omg.
I enjoyed this slightly more than you. I gave it three stars. But I definitely would have liked to know the authors motivations and I do think that it could have been executed better. I’d have liked some story to link the articles etc
Yeah, I think I hovered between 2 and 3 stars but ultimately it was a frustrating read for me. I definitely think the let down was the way it was written.
Eeek, yeah I struggled with this one too! It was also because it felt so “tell tell tell” and I couldn’t get into the story!? And I really get into ones like Illuminae, so I don’t think it was a format problem for me. Agh. And honestly it made me NOT want to be a fan of an author ever again!??!? That author was so gross…which I mean, was the point, but STILL. Books that make you not want to read are kind of…in a problem zone?!
I know, normally I’m okay with the formatting but I think it was the way it was written and how each girl pretty much had a bland personality? Haha I kind of know what you mean! She just lapped up the attention and just ugh, you could see what she was doing from a mile away as a reader.