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Viking senior editor Kendra Levin admits that it’s a fairly common occurrence for publishers to tout special projects. However, she says, “It’s far less common that as many people are as genuinely excited as we are about this book. It adds extra momentum to our efforts.” That advocacy reaches all the way to the top, too. “Ken Wright [v-p and publisher of Viking Children’s Books] is a huge fan and super supportive,” Levin says. “He has really been a big champion of the book.”
All the Truth tells the story of Judith, a young woman who disappears from her small, close-knit town and returns two years later having suffered a trauma that has left her unable to speak. She is in love with a young man she’s known from childhood, Lucas, and the book is addressed to Lucas, inside her head. According to Levin, “It’s what she would say to him if she only could.” Part mystery, part romance, and a testament to overcoming trauma, Berry’s novel, Levin says, is powerfully multi-layered.
The book is framed in what Levin describes as a “pinhole” narrative in which bits of the tale are slowly revealed. “At the beginning you get a very small glimpse of the character, but don’t know who she is or what’s happened to her. The story has an old-timey setting, but you’re not sure when it’s taking place. And she [the narrator] is addressing what she is saying to someone, but you don’t know who.” Levin says this structure reminds her of adult novels Room by Emma Donoghue and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
It took many, many meetings to finalize the book’s cover design, according to Levin. “The more we love a book, the harder it is to put the right cover on it,” she says. With All the Truth, the challenge was to “show the drama of the book and convey the voice. But how do you convey so much about the words with images? We also wanted to focus on the idea of being silenced.” The final product, Levin believes – a central photograph of a girl staring intently, with the image gashed over the mouth area – expresses “the directness and immediacy of the character.”
It’s one thing for a publisher to be convinced of a book’s success. But the proof is always in the reaction of a much broader readership, and, hopefully, in strong sales. After Berry’s two middle-grade fairytale fantasies and a series of comic/graphic novels for younger kids, Viking is positioning All the Truth as Berry’s breakout book, one that could potentially achieve significant crossover readership. It is one of two Penguin Young Readers’ Blue Ribbon selections for fall 2013, a designation that distinguishes the title as one with “tremendous word-of-mouth and award potential,” according to Elyse Marshall, associate director of publicity for Penguin Young Readers Group. Blue Ribbon-specific support includes a dedicated galley mailing to booksellers, featured placement on the inside back cover of the publisher’s fall ’13 catalog, and a major galley distribution at BEA, plus a Blue Ribbon dinner with librarians and a bookseller dinner tour with fellow Blue Ribbon author Holly Goldberg Sloan, both also taking place during BEA.
At publication in September, further marketing plans include online advertising, promotion at school and library conferences, and author appearances at various fall festivals, trade shows, and writers’ conferences. Levin, for one, is looking forward to seeing how All the Truth is received. “This book is not like anything else. The voice is so unusual and so compelling, and the way it’s written is so different.” Now the wait begins to see if Judith’s story gets other people talking.