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“Tell It True” By: Tim Lockette

“Tell It True”

Author: Tim Lockette

Publisher: Seven Stories Press

New York

2021

Price: $18.95 (Hardcover)

Pages: 185

Less than one year ago in reviewing Lockette’s “Atty at Law,” I included the hope that the successful debut novel by the “Anniston Star” writer would be the first of many.

Now we have “Tell It True,” again with a teenage heroine, but where the first novel was a middle-grade fiction this is a young adult fiction.

“Addy” was set in a town 20 miles north of the Florida line. “Tell It True” is set north of Birmingham on a big lake, possibly Guntersville, but called here, inexplicably, Beachside: “where upper-middle-class Yankees come to build their second homes.”

The first novel featured a girl in the summer after her sixth grade saving the life of an innocent dog and also solving a murder case, pretty serious business. This novel is more serious still.

Lisa Rives, 14, is a high school sophomore.

She is not considered very pretty. She’s not especially popular but is very bright and an independent thinker. Do those conditions go together?

She is a worried child. Her mom and dad fight a lot, over every little thing, it seems to her.

It seems to be mom who nags dad, BUT Lisa fears her father, who works in Huntsville four days a week, is having an affair with his assistant, a pretty young Frenchwoman named Denise.

Lisa tries to investigate this possibility and everything else around her. She wants to know “What people really do. How they really live.” She says, “I want to know the truth”; she has the mind of a journalist.

Then, as it happens, she becomes the editor of the school newspaper, a small, unambitious publication, covering almost exclusively, “Cheerleaders hold car wash to raise money for prom.”

But Lisa wants to do more, run more important stories, even if they are still local.

The advisor of the paper, “Beachside Bulletin,” is one of our American heroes—the dedicated high school teacher. Ms. Blanderson encourages Lisa, even gets her a subscription to “The Columbia Journalism Review,” but Blanderson is uncertain when Lisa’s great opportunity arises.

Down in Atmore, the state of Alabama will hold an execution, to be done with lethal injection. The murder took place in their county and state regulations say that a representative of one paper in the county where the crime was committed is entitled to a pass to witness the execution. The only newspaper in their county is the school paper.

Lisa applies for the pass to witness the execution and controversy erupts.

She is only 14. Is this OK?

More importantly, is the school paper a “REAL” paper?

If not, why not?

In the course of the novel, Lisa has to deal with a great many pressures. Her home life, as mentioned. At school also life gets complicated. She loses friends, and she had none to spare.

There is also a boy involved, Nolan Ramsey, “muscular and tanned with a mop of surfer-boy bleach-blonde hair,” an athlete and, to any sensible reader, unworthy.

Lisa is counseled by the wise Ms. Blanderson who stresses that their paper is as “real” as they make it, that journalism is hard; it takes discipline and courage. One may lose friends, following a controversial story.

There is some discussion, as one might expect, of the death penalty itself.

Much of this novel is quite earnest, but “Tell It True” is still quite humorous. Lisa has a sharp wit and Lockette sems to have nailed a good many of the absurdities of high school which we may remember only dimly.

If in fact grown- ups still give kids books for Christmas, this would be an excellent choice for a young lady you know.

Don Noble , Ph. D. Chapel Hill, Prof of English, Emeritus, taught American literature at UA for 32 years. He has been the host of the APTV literary interview show "Bookmark" since 1988 and has broadcast a weekly book review for APR since November of 2001, so far about 850 reviews. Noble is the editor of four anthologies of Alabama fiction and the winner of the Alabama state prizes for literary scholarship, service to the humanities and the Governor's Arts Award.
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  • ASCA_Small_logo.pngNow a retired English professor at The University of Alabama, Dr. Noble's specialties are Southern and American literature. He also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.Don Noble's reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:45am and 4:44pm. and have been made possible in part through grants from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the support of The University of Alabama, and from the generous support from our listeners. Thank you!To listen to the audio version of Dr. Noble's reviews, just click on the book title to be taken to the full page. Audio is found either at the very beginning of the transcript or at the bottom of the page.Dr. Noble's Book Reviews are made possible in part with a grant from The Alabama State Council on the Arts,