Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

            ***Spoiler Alert***
Jonah Carrier, 17, had always been a daredevil, unlike his best friend Clay LeBlanc. It was Jonah who climbed the cell tower barefoot just because it was there to do, while Clay refused. So when Jonah found a gun belonging to Clay's dad in the LaBlanc attic, he couldn't resist putting it to his head and pulling the trigger, despite Clay's warning that it might be loaded.

It was.

One daredevil act and the lives of two families are suddenly changed in ways that they never could have imagined. For 15-year-old Liv Carrier, her brother's act means a heartbreaking journey from denial to acceptance. At first, and understandably, Liv might seen rather immature, losing interest in and acting out at school, trivializing Jonah's life support machines by giving them silly names - even referring to his gunshot would as his boo-boo. These defense mechanisms help Liv keep her anger and disappointment at bay and protect her from the pain caused by Jonah's act. 

But Liv, who knows her brother better than anyone, is asked to help with Jonah on a particularly difficult day. Liv is convinced that he is still there inside and begins to care for him more and even begins to advocate for him. She constantly touches and talks to him, finding ways to entertain him that elicit responses from him. But even as Liv finds purpose in caring for Jonah, she finds herself shouldering some of the responsibilities that should have been taken up by their mother. Nikki Carrier refuses to get involved with Jonah, focusing on the machines keeping him alive and escaping by going to work everyday. But as word of the shooting gets out, so do gun rights advocates, who go after the Carriers, blaming them for Jonah's behavior, and Liv finds herself feeling the need to protect her mother from them.

Meanwhile, Clay is no longer welcomed at the Carrier home because his family is being sued by Jonah's mother in the hope of getting a settlement to help pay for his medical costs. But Liv and Clay begin meeting at the Kennebec River where all used to play a game they called Three Things I Know Are Truth with one rule only - the answers have to be truthful.

Fortunately, Liv has a lot of support. The nurses who care for Jonah, Clay, and even Jonah's fight for life helps her. Gradually, though, as Jonah's condition worsens, and after he dies of pneumonia, Liv plays a final game of Three Things I Know Are True with herself, finally facing her pain and anger at Jonah for what he did. This allows her to let go of feeling responsible for her mother forcing her to become responsible for herself.

This book doesn't really have a neat ending, instead Liv comes to realize that life doesn't run smoothly, but is like the eddies in the nearby Kennebec River that go in all directions, but that even if you can't control it, you can at least take responsibility for your own life. 

Three Things I Know Are True is a heartbreaking coming of age story about a side of a tragic gun accident we don't often see - the impact it has on family members, and how it extends to friends and neighbors. And while they may feel distant or not developed, it's because they are indeed fading out of Liv's life, with only two exceptions. But this is Liv's story and it is told entirely in the first person by her, in carefully arranged lyrically expressive free verse poems. One of the things that I really liked was the way she ran the Kennebec River through the story and the big role it played in Liv's life.

Three Things I Know Are True is an emotional story about a problem that is all too common in our society today and Betty Culley has put a face on it you won't soon forget.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was borrowed from a friend.

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