cover image Three Things I Know Are True

Three Things I Know Are True

Betty Culley. HarperTeen, $17.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-290802-5

In eloquent narrative verse, this debut set in a small, working-class Maine community recounts the reverberations of a gun accident that leaves 17-year-old Jonah severely brain damaged and on life support. The narrator, Jonah’s 15-year-old sister, Liv, struggles to comprehend her new reality: her teachers’ voices sound “like buzzing.../ all the words blending together/ into one big GRAH.” Jonah now lives in the family’s living room, dependent on round-the-clock nurses for survival, and letters to the editor blame Jonah’s parents’ negligent teaching for the accident. Meanwhile, Jonah’s best friend, Clay, in whose attic Jonah accidentally shot himself, is forbidden to visit because Liv’s mother, desperate for money to pay for Jonah’s care, is suing Clay’s parents. Frustrated that her mother pays “more attention/ to Jonah’s machines/ than to Jonah,” Liv remains convinced that “Jonah is in there.” Liv’s resilience grows with her gradual recognition of her own inner resources; Jonah’s indomitable spirit; Clay’s quiet, steadfast friendship; and the supportive network that embraces her family. Culley, who has worked as a pediatric hospice nurse, deftly captures the community’s nuanced responses and the heartbreak both families navigate as this devastating tragedy becomes a political battleground. Ages 13–up. [em](Jan.) [/em]