16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: kids + parents, road trip, romance, new friends
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Morgan has never known who her dad is, and when her sick mom finally relents and gives in, she doesn’t waste anytime planning a road trip to go see him. Along with her new (highly enthusiastic) friend, Amy, and her boss from the amusement park, Adam, she is off to meet her father and uncovers more secrets then she expected.
There are some books that handle multiple plotlines with grace, and there are some that buckle under the pressure.
Unfortunately, 16 Things I Thought Were True falls in the second category. In addition to the summary I wrote above, Morgan is also reeling from a viral YouTube video that ostracized her from all of her friends and her peers and she has (get ready get set) a Twitter addiction. See? It’s a lot.
It’s a shame too because I was very intrigued about Morgan’s Twitter life and her quest to find out who her dad was. But when you add in the melodramatics from her mom (very uncharacteristic but health problems inspired her to share her love for Morgan more freely), the road trip, the romance, new friend Amy’s own challenges, and the fallout from all of these events? Not only was the rapid fire succession of storylines overwhelming, but because it was impossible to give each and every storyline enough attention (especially in 283 pages) I had trouble investing fully.
I don’t think I would have felt as let down if there weren’t bright spots like the remarkable chemistry between Morgan and Adam, the loyal and chatty Amy, who has her own baggage but brought a lot of vibrancy to these pages, and a road trip to Canada (that was my first time reading about one). I wanted 16 Things to live up to its full potential but as complicated moments only grew even more complicated and heartbreaking, the reality factor drifted further and further away.
As a self-admitted Twitter addict, I loved the inclusion of the tweets at the start of the chapters (I wish it was all consistent though) and even the idea of Morgan escaping to the Twitter world because she was feeling lonely and insecure. Totally relatable yet while I understand the importance of real social interaction vs. the (sometimes) false intimacy of social media platforms, I was unhappy with how quickly some of the characters in the book glossed over (what could be) important bonds for Morgan. I know it’s “just the internet” but so many of us know it can be a place rooted in true friendships.
Despite some positives in 16 Things I Thought Were True, I would have much preferred a story that streamlined its multiple arcs and had a sharper focus on one (or two or three) of its many themes. On the upside, I’m definitely up for trying another Gurtler book and finding out that works for me.