Heather Vogel Frederick. Absolutely Truly. New York: Simon, 2014. Print.
Absolutely Truly is a Young Adult novel with a clever mystery that, frankly, is more realistic than many YA mysteries. The main character, Truly Lovejoy, has a few problems not unique to twelve and thirteen year-old girls. She is taller than anyone in her class. Her family has just moved to a new state. And her parents are having some personal and financial problems.
Now, Truly is used to moving. Her father is an army helicopter pilot, so the fact that she is entering her fifth school when she begins seventh grade is nothing unusual. Her problem is that the family finally had moved to Austin, Texas, where she had some cousins and friends and fit in nicely.
However, her father has lost his right arm in Afghanistan fighting, so his military career has ended. Meanwhile, Truly’s grandparents are retiring and looking to have her father and his sister (Aunt True) take over their small bookstore in the small, rural town of Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire, where Col. Lovejoy and Aunt True grew up.
Absolutely Truly portrays Pumpkin Falls as representative of Northern New England with its local maple syrup and covered bridge. It also has some traditions such as its Winter Festival and Cotillion. This means Truly is going to have to learn to dance with a partner who is probably a head shorter. She reminds us that her shoe size is ten and a half.
The family problems are things that other people have also struggled with. Her father has not been himself since he lost his arm. Her aunt and father both made a point of leaving Pumpkin Falls as soon as they graduated from high school, but now they have to return. How can they get the bookstore to become profitable once again? If they fail, what will they do then?
Then, to make things interesting, Truly finds an envelope in an autographed copy of Charlotte’s Web that sounds like it is the beginning of a treasure hunt puzzle. That valuable copy of Charlotte’s Web goes missing—Col. Lovejoy was hoping that auctioning that book could keep the store afloat. Meanwhile, Truly and some acquaintances try to decipher the clues to track the treasure. It appears the letters were written about twenty years ago, judging from the postage stamp affixed to one of them.
There are many things going on this story. Truly is the middle of five children and the oldest of three sisters. She has been on swim teams in the past, but she might not be able to be on the local swim team because of failing math grades.
Some of the townspeople are curious characters, too. The postmistress is a notorious busybody who seems to be enjoying the difficulties of the Lovejoy’s bookstore. A customer who always swaps but never buys any books resembles a bag lady and probably is a cat lady. She always has a new kitten or two in her pockets. Oh, and her father’s family was one of the early settlers of Pumpkin Falls. There is a Lovejoy Mountain and a Lovejoy College named after some of their ancestors.
Interesting scenarios and some honest and realistic conflicts make this YA story a real winner. While the author is known for some “chick lit,” Absolutely Truly should find an audience with boys as well as girls. There is no romance, just honest struggles about growing up.