Review: Truth or Dare (Non Pratt)

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Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication date: June 1st, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 383

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A powerful and moving novel about bravery from the Guardian’s “writer to watch” Non Pratt, perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green and Holly Bourne. How far is too far when it comes to the people you love? Claire Casey hates being the centre of attention. But if it means getting Sef Malik to notice her, it’s a risk she’s happy to take. Sef is prepared to do anything to help his recently disabled brother. But this means putting Claire’s love – and life – on the line. Because when you’re willing to risk everything, what is there left to lose?

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Mild spoilers of the book contained in this review.

This was my first Non Pratt book, and most probably my last. I was a little hesitant to start this because I’ve heard mixed reviews of her books. It’s always a hit or miss. And I guess for me this book was a miss.

I had quite a number of issues with this book but glad I finished it. I’m definitely in the minority of people that didn’t quite enjoy this book. Granted, there were some great points to Truth or Dare but overall I felt it could have gone in a different direction with its PoC narratives and relationships highlighted in the book.

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The writing was pretty great in this one, it sucks your right in and the concept of telling two sides of a story, with a third combining both views is pretty unique. You get Claire’s side of the story first where we see her fall in love with Sef Malik and does anything to help him and his brother, Kam, who needs extra cash for intensive brain injury treatment. Together, they teamed up to create a Youtube channel to do a series of dares in hopes of gaining donations for Kam’s treatments.

It’s always nice to see more books using social media as a basis in their stories. Social media is such a huge part of our lives that everything written about it in Truth or Dare was pretty relatable. The obsessions with likes and views, the problem with cyber shaming and sexual harassment, and the trouble with people pretending on the internet for their own gains. I applaud Non Pratt for weaving all these problematic issues so well into the book. Though to be honest, I wish she had tackled the issue of Claire being sexually harassed by a fellow student following a viral video shaming her body more clearly. I felt that part of the book was left abruptly and we could have had a better discussion how to deal with situations like these in life.

The characters are quite complicated in this one which made the book a good read, generally. We have Sef, the cool guy that gets all the hot girls and Claire can’t help but to fall for him. But eventually we see a side of Sef that’s hidden from everyone post-Kam’s accident. A side which he hid from his parents and best friends. It was interesting to read how his life falls to pieces after his brother’s injury, in which he blamed himself. How poorly he dealt with it had severe consequences on his relationships with everyone, especially Claire.

But there’s something about these characters, that because of their flaws and brokenness, made the book an interesting read. It made them relatable and raw. It made them these messed up individuals who were trying to do a good thing, but somehow screwed up. And isn’t adolescence all about doing stupid things and learning from them, no matter the major consequences?

I think the ending was tied off in a good way. There was a twist that I did not expect at the end, but didn’t really change my overall perception of this book.

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I had major issues with Claire and Sef’s relationship in Truth or Dare. It was troubling how the ending somehow made it acceptable for what Sef did to Claire. If you all know me on my social media, you know how against I am of male characters with anger management problems, prone to violence (he throws a lot of stuff in this book) and mental health issues that are disguised as hot, sexy, mysterious boys. I appreciate the forthright boy with these issues who don’t pretend desperately to be someone else in public. But not the playboys who get the girls and have no consideration for the hearts they’re inevitably breaking.

So you can imagine my horror when Sef’s side of the story was revealed and I saw him as this problematic male who can’t help but to drag Claire into all of his mess. And somehow Claire accepts all this because she loves him and wants to be a good friend. And despite Sef turning around at the end of the book, I still loathed him for what he did to Claire, and Laila, and basically everyone else in this book. And while I was rooting for Claire when she came to her senses, all rooting was abruptly halted when she found herself missing Sef and finding him afterwards to make up with him.

To be frank, I don’t have an issue with Sef and Claire as characters, because they portray complexity relatable to all teens. But boy do I have an issue with their relationship.

I am not in favour of books promoting the idea that these kind of relationships are okay. Because they are not. No amount of love is worth the disrespect you get from a guy who can’t figure out how to deal with his emotions.

On top of that, I’ve had issues with the diversity plot of this book. Despite Sef’s family all having Arabic names and they’re British-Pakistanis, there is no mention, at all, about their race, background or religion. Instead Sef is portrayed as this common Brit teen who has sex, drinks and visit pubs. So if you switched Sef Malik for Seth Matthewson, it wouldn’t have made a difference to the book.

And because of that, I felt that an opportunity was lost in making this a great PoC book. Because the names like Laila Jalil, Zahid, Kamran, Amir, Farah etc were all just names and nothing more. As a Muslim reader, I would have wanted to see some backstory to his family and how their faith were impacted by such a tragedy.

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Overall, I felt like this book could have been a little bit more. But it’s still worth a try to read and see if you like it.

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for sending a copy in exchange for an honest review!


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