2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · novella · short fiction · young adult

Book Review: Jenna’s Truth by Nadia L. King

Title: Jenna’s Truthjennas truth small.jpg

Author:  Nadia L. King

Published: October 10th 2016

Publisher: Aulexic

Pages: 54

Genres:  Short Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult

RRP: $14.99

Rating: 4 stars

Jenna’s just a teenager who wants to fit in. The popularity that she wanted though, quickly turns into infamy when two “well-meaning” friends spark a controversy that alters her life forever. What happens when the very group of teens you crave to belong to, end up being responsible for one of the most painful and humiliating events in your life?

Inspired by Amanda Todd’s tragic story of bullying, Jenna’s Truth is more than just teen short story it’s a lesson in empathy, self-awareness, and speaking out about what matters, especially bullying. Jenna’s Truth written by Nadia L King is a gripping story, which explores the themes of cyberbullying, teen drinking, sex, and suicide. Life isn’t black and white, and sometimes teens can be the most insensitive people.

Published by Aulexic, a publisher specialising in books for children with language and literacy difficulties, Jenna’s Truth is dyslexia-friendly and contains features that aid in comprehension and vocabulary. The story is kept short, at just 6,000 words and includes curriculum connections, discussion questions, and recommended activities, making it an ideal quick-read at home or during transit for 15-16 year olds.

If you’re against cyberbullying, want to help someone who might be a victim of bullying, or you’re experiencing bullying in your life right now, read Jenna’s Truth today. 

My review:

Jenna’s Truth isn’t the first book I have read this year that tackles the timely and complex topic of cyberbullying, nor do I suspect it will be my last. The rise in release of novels that examine cyberbullying is important to help educate and prevent this growing trend.

Nadia L. King’s debut young adult novella, Jenna’s Truth ,was inspired by the story of a Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, who sadly took her own life, after she was bullied. Using this powerful and tragic real life event as an impetus for her first book, King brings the reader a story where a young girl almost loses her life to suicide, but instead she is saved and the bullies do not get to win. Jenna’s Truth brings us the powerful and highly relevant story of Jenna Wilson. Jenna is a typical teenager, attending the high school Willoughby Heights, Australia. She longs to be a part of the popular crowd, headed by the sophisticated Tina Scaruffi and her loyal sidekick Krissy. After begging her swim team friend Renee and cousin to Tina to help her gain entry into the cool crowd, Jenna’s dreams come true when Tina unexpectedly takes her into the fold of the in crowd. Jenna is over the moon when she receives an invite to her first high school party. However, Jenna’s attendance at this party, a right of passage of many teenagers, is marred by a terrible incident. Jenna is plied with alcohol, stripped and taken advantage of by her so-called new friends. The fallout results in photos being splashed all over social media and the incident earns Jenna the cruel label of #slagbitch. After avoiding school in the days afterwards, when Jenna finally returns, she finds she cannot cope with the unwanted attention directed her way. Jenna resolves to make it all end.

The dramatic cover of Jenna’s Truth gives the reader a good indication of what to expect from the pages of this powerful piece of short fiction. The striking cover, as well as the highly relevant main topic of the book, cyberbullying, worked to initially draw me into this story. My response to Jenna’s Truth is one of respect and admiration, Nadia L. King has tackled a number of controversial issues (suicide, bullying, attempted sexual assault, underage binge drinking and drug use) within a small space, but the final result is one of high impact.

Jenna’s Truth employs the use of a first person style narration to unfurl the events of the story. The book is told entirely through the eyes of the main character, Jenna. This is where King excels, I believe she really worked hard to get inside her character’s skin and provide the reader with an authentic voice. The feelings Jenna expresses through the novella accurately reflects the ups and downs experienced by a typical teenager, but a warning, there are some dark moments. As the book is a piece of short fiction, there wasn’t a whole lot of time devoted to this and I as a reader wanted more in this area. However, the problematic moments that are covered in the book do serve a worthy purpose, they remind us of the important message that Jenna’s Truth is wishing to convey. To me the message was clear, it is imperative to seek help in instances of bullying and the like.

Jenna is the distinct voice in this novella, but she is supported by a band of secondary characters who help move the story to where it needs to go. The bullies in Jenna’s Truth, Tina and Krissy, ignited quite an emotional response in me as a reader. They reminded me of a difficult bullying chapter in my own teen years. Tina, Krissy and their posse were almost carbon copies of the bullies I encountered. Although it made for difficult reading on my behalf, I knew this was a sure sign King got this aspect of the narrative right. It is also important to mention Jenna’s parents, especially her mother. Parents reading this novella will find it easy to relate to the feelings and frustrations presented in Jenna’s Truth. For the educators reading this novel, Jenna’s teacher, who becomes her rescuer, this book illustrates how vital the support of network of figures of trust can be to safeguarding a young person’s life from potential harm.

I came into this book as a reader, but also as a mother of pre teen children and an educator. In my role as an educator I have delivered programs focussed on preventing bullying. I have found no matter how hard we try as educators to make the school environment a kinder and friendlier place, there will still unfortunately be instances of bullying. King recognises this and the rise of the deeply damaging trend of cyberbullying. Jenna’s Truth works to provide a story teens, their parents and educators can relate to. It also provides a voice to those who have been bullied or are being bullied. I hope this book gives the bullied a sense of understanding, resilience and most of all the courage to speak up.

My final word on Jenna’s Truth must acknowledge the wealth of valuable resources that are contained at the close of the novel. For educators, these include an array of activities for use in the classroom and vital links to the Australian curriculum. For students and their parents, there are a number of useful links, organisations and helplines to reach out to, if required. The inclusion of this supplementary material is an added bonus to this rousing novella.

Nadia L. King treads important but tenuous ground in her first foray into writing for the young adult genre. Based on my positive and moving response to Jenna’s Truth, I predict a healthy career in Australian fiction for Nadia L. King.

Jenna’s Truth by Nadia L. King was published in October 2016 by Aulexic. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

Learn more about the author of Jenna’s Truth, Nadia L. King here.

*Please note I received a complimentary copy of this novella via the author, Nadia L. King, in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

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