If I Tell You the Truth

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur, 464 pages, Can be read in a few nights depending on your speed, Young Adult

“this world is too heavy; can I put it down somewhere?”

~Kiran, p. 293

(Thanks to Gayatri Sethi for recommending this book! Also, please note the content warnings Kaur includes to ensure this book is right for you.)

I read this right after All My Rage and these two books pair really well together. While the main plot points are different, they main story for both stems from a major traumatic event and both show the lasting impact of that trauma. For If I Tell You the Truth, that trauma is a sexual assault that leaves Kiran pregnant mere weeks before she moves to Vancouver to start University. Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Kiran is shunned by her immediate family after she chooses to keep the child.

Told in both verse and prose, and from the perspective of both Kiran and her daughter Sahaara, this book is touching, heartbreaking, and powerful. Like many YA books, we follow Sahaara as she learns about herself, hidden truths about her past, and who she wants to be as she grows up. It’s a beautifully told coming-of-age /finding one’s voice story.

What makes this story unique—and wonderful—is that is it also a coming-of-age story of sorts for Kiran. After having to grow up so quickly at the age of 18, there is much Kiran has never processed or dealt with. As the story progresses, though, she also discovers who she is and wants to be and finds her own voice. For Kiran, however, it’s a voice that was always there, but she needed to find the strength to use it.

A photo of I Tell You the Truth among purple flowers, green leaves, and green grass.

Kaur deftly tackles a number of topics, ranging from rape to undocumented status to political power to the lasting impacts of “what will people think.” I was not at all expecting the plot to go the way it did, but the ending of the book is one of my favorite endings. And, as a qualitative researcher, I really appreciated the care Kaur shows in how to practice interview-based research projects.

I’m really looking forward to reading Kaur’s first book—When you Ask Me Where I’m Going, which also follows Kiran and Sahaara—and any book she writes next.

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