February 19, 2013
The Truth about Truman School
by Dori Hillestad Butler
Frustrated with the censorship she encounters while writing for the school newspaper, Zebby and a friend, Amr, create an online, underground newspaper. They decide that anyone can post something on the website, so long as it is true. They promise not to censor. So when someone posts an unflattering photo of Lilly, a popular eighth-grader, they leave the photo up because it's no big deal. But then things escalate. Mean and cruel gossip take over the site.
Butler offers an unflattering, yet true-to-life, view of middle school. She shines a light on how cruel, self-centered, and uncaring many pre-teens are. The Truman students have no idea what effect their actions have on Lilly, believing that no one could take it seriously and that Lilly is being oversensitive. Zebby and Amr are also complicit. They know the comments are malicious, but leave them up in their misguided interest in free speech. Lilly herself is not perfect. She's said mean things to other students, so it's no surprise that she's become a target. As for the adults, they deny that such hatred occurs and blindly ignore the bullying that is going on.
Told in shifting first-person narratives, the story is an important and timely examination of bullying, cliques, and peer pressure.