Book Review: True Story by Kate Reed Petty

One of my favourite books of 2020, an astounding debut!

Book Description

After a college party, two boys drive a girl home: drunk and passed out in the back seat. Rumours spread about what they did to her, but later they’ll tell the police a different version of events. Alice will never remember what truly happened. Her fracture runs deep, hidden beneath cleverness and wry humour. Nick – a sensitive, misguided boy who stood by – will never forget.


Startlingly relevant and enthralling in its brilliance, True Story is by turns a campus novel, psychological thriller, horror story and crime noir, each narrative frame stripping away the fictions we tell about women, men and the very nature of truth. It introduces Kate Reed Petty as a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction.

My Thoughts

One novel, crossing genres, a raging success!

How to describe True Story? A novel where your truth is entirely your own, it may be shaped by what other people say and do, but no one’s truths are the same.

It’s the summer of 1999, a high school party, a rumour, and all that follows. This book details the lives of Alice and Nick, the boy who stood by, and how the events of that summer evening shaped their lives. In telling their stories, we encounter several genres, and the vibe of each genre is felt – my favourite was the horror vibe, creepy woods, I’ll say no more.

Our lives change constantly, our truths change as we learn and grown. From first person to third person; from college admission essays, emails to film transcripts and more; the changing genres of this novel –  this is all a beautiful reflection of the changing format of a person’s life. And with each change comes a change in emotion, a clever way to draw the reader in. 

What makes this novel special is how intimately the main characters are laid bare, how they’ve manoeuvred through life believing their truth and acting a certain way because of it. But there’s also a deep level of honesty to this story, flawed characters whose lives are separate but entwined because of that one night. Imagine not being able to tell your own story, that’s the reality Alice is facing, but who’s story is it to tell if she doesn’t know it?

Complex, complicated, haunting, honest, thrilling, compelling – I could go on! A truly impressive debut, one that pushes boundaries, challenges assumptions (societies and maybe your own). Tackling sensitive subjects that are very relevant in today’s society in a unique way, True Story, is highly recommended reading.

This books is available to buy from Amazon UK / Blackwells / Waterstones

*My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book*

Note: […] means I removed part of the synopsis as I felt it revealed too much about what’s to come. I read this novel only having read the part of the synopsis in bold, and I like that I didn’t know what events were going to be played out. Sometimes, less is more.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: True Story by Kate Reed Petty

  1. I’m sorry Janel, but I’m not convinced. Your review reminds me of the movie “I know what you did last summer”. All that did was scare the pants off me, which given my age is not a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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