The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart Book Review

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: January 27, 2015

Mark has always dreamed of climbing Mount Rainier. A hard climb for sure and one that Mark may never get to do because he is sick. The kind of sick that doesn't get better. With the newest cancer diagnosis on his mind, Mark decides that if he is going to die, he is going to do it on his own terms. With his faithful dog by his side, Mark runs away, heading for the mountain. He is unsure if he will make it to the top alive, but is determined to die trying.

A combination of The Fault in Our Stars and Hatchet (loosely), this is another "cancer story", but for the middle grade set. It's serious. It's real. Some parents may try to shield their kids from something like this, but I think that the story fully embraces what it means to live and die in a way that is age appropriate. Like all characters, especially twelve-year-olds, Mark is deeply flawed. His desperation to fulfill a dream or die trying is coupled with the planning skills of a pre-teen. Sure, he brings enough money, but what about wandering around a strange city at night by yourself? He knew he had to leave, but didn't bother to check the weather. Despite his suicidal mission, Mark still doesn't want to be alone, dragging his poor dog along on a journey that Mark realizes at the end, may cost them both their lives.

I also felt very bad for Mark's best friend Jessie, who is left behind with the clues to his whereabouts. She knows where Mark is heading, but is torn between her loyalty as his best friend and the desire to protect him. Which isn't fair by the way. It isn't fair that Mark puts so much on another twelve-year-old who could (and does) blame herself for not telling. Sadly, this also left the character of Jessie feeling a bit flat, because only know her within the confines of Mark's cancer.

One of things I don't understand is why his parents didn't try to make this happen for Mark. It's not like him wanting to climb this mountain was that huge of a secret. He and his grandfather talked about it a lot. I know his parents are a bit protective, but this is one of those Make-a-Wish kind of things, where the kids says hey, I want to climb Mount Rainier and someone finds a way of making it happen. In a way where the kid won't die trying. When there isn't a snowstorm or some such. There is a moral dilemma in these pages too, because this is basically a book about a suicidal pre-teen. Although I really enjoyed the book, I think one of the reasons I liked it was because it made me think, it made me consider myself in the same situation, and led to places that are both dark and beautiful in the same breath.

Side note: I texted a friend when I began this book because it was set in her hometown of Wenatchee, WA. Or at least, it was in the beginning. She was rather shocked that any story would begin there and I have promised to send her my copy when I finished so she can see for herself.