True Story by Kate Reed Petty

True Story is a surprising and inventive novel that blends genres and conventions to look at how we tell stories and what the truth is. One night during high school, Alice was driven home from a party by two boys. She was drunk and passed out, and doesn’t remember what happened, but the rumours say a lot, despite what the boys tell the police. One of their friends, Nick, hears a different version of the story. And as both Alice and Nick get older, and deal with abusive relationships, addition, and other challenges, the truth of that night stays hidden, until it finally seems like it is going to come out.

The structure and narrative of True Story are impressive: it blends a novel, thriller and horror and drama, with screenplay and college essay, as different chunks of time are told from Alice and Nick’s points of view. At first, this seems like it could be a bit of a gimmick, but it is only later that it starts to make sense why the novel is written like this. The book is visceral—particularly around abusive relationships and addition—and tense, playing around with the heart-racing genres of horror and thriller whilst ultimately telling a story of how to tell a story. The different elements are weaved together well and the ending was unexpected.

This is a dark novel that touches on some intense subjects and looks at contemporary questions of how women and men are treated, but also has a playful edge that messes around with genre and possibly has an underlying message about not underestimating genre fiction.