Eighth-grader Truly’s foray into popularity spirals into a tempest of deceit and betrayal.
Upon turning 13, Truly is given a measure of technological freedom: a cellphone and access to social media. But this soon evolves into a quagmire of problems for Truly. When former BFF Natasha invites her to join the Popular Table during lunchtime and to collaborate on a school assignment, Truly is surprised but thrilled. However, Natasha’s overtures hide an ulterior motive. In the pursuit of popularity, Truly neglects her friendship with Hazel, who retaliates by plotting revenge utilizing social media. The Truly/Hazel dynamic is just one component of this interwoven story. Vail explores the motivations and private quandaries of the six characters who narrate the tale, from Jack, the quiet advocate for those excluded, to the socially conscious and manipulative Natasha, who yearns to be the most popular. With keen insight, Vail reveals the internal struggles with uncertainty and self-doubt that can plague young teens regardless of popularity status. Natasha’s schemes and Hazel’s misdeeds lead to a relentless barrage of bullying via social media for Truly. While a dramatic moment reveals the extent of Truly’s anguish, Vail concludes the tale with a resolution that is both realistic and hopeful.
Vail captures the complexity of middle school social challenges, insightfully addressing the issues of friendships and integrity. (Fiction. 12-15)