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16 Things I Thought Were True

by Janet Gurtler

In 16 Things I Thought Were True, Janet Gurtler proves that when it comes to structure, sometimes simple is best. The book follows Morgan McLean, an 18-year-old living in a small town outside Seattle, who endures a special kind of teenage hell when a video of her dancing in her underwear goes viral. Morgan’s response is to retreat into the online world, specifically Twitter, where she becomes obsessed with getting 5,000 followers.

Morgan is thrust back into non-digital life when her mother is rushed to the hospital as the result of a cardiac episode. Thinking she may die, Morgan’s mother divulges a long-held secret: the identity of Morgan’s father, who left before his daughter was born. This revelation launches the novel into road-trip territory, as Morgan undertakes a journey to visit her long-lost dad. Tagging along for the ride are Morgan’s motor-mouthed co-worker and the cute male supervisor from the theme park where she works.

The journey makes up the majority of the novel, which is a good thing. Through plenty of quippy fun and a budding romance, Morgan is slowly courted back to the real world. Gurtler’s writing is crisp and quick for the most part, and the author has an ear for dialogue that rings true – no easy feat with a teenage cast.

The book’s real strength, however, is implied in its title. Each of the novel’s 16 sections opens with an assumption Morgan has held, from the frivolous (“You can tell by looking that someone has their black belt in karate”) to the serious (“Parents only lie to their kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny”). The reader quickly catches on to the fact that Morgan’s belief will be disproven in each section, sometimes humorously and other times through complex, moving moments.

Relying so heavily on Twitter as a plot device is a risk, but it’s integrated into the novel in a way that reads organically and adds to Morgan’s character. For Gurtler – and her readers – it’s a risk that pays off.


Reviewer: Grace O’Connell

Publisher: Sourcebooks/Raincoast


Price: $11.99

Page Count: 304 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-40227-797-9

Released: March

Issue Date: 2014-4

Categories: Children and YA Fiction

Age Range: 13+