Sue Divin’s debut Guard You Heart was a bit of a sensation, garnering all kinds of Book Prize Nominations. I loved it so much that it shared my Favourite Novel of 2022 with Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s astonishing Thin Places.
Truth Be Told was a tricky follow up. Could she do it again so quickly? Well, yes she can… and then some! The debut novel takes a lifetime and then you have to write the second in a short time. Few can manage that shift in time resource.
Divin doesn’t only deal with it, she exceeds the time limitation. Truth Be Told is better than Guard Your Heart in almost every way. It is even better written. The plot is even more fascinating. I found myself feverishly page turning to see whether it could be true and was then even more surprised by what the true ended up being.
Like Sue’s debut the whole thing is held together by a freak meeting. In Guard Your Heart it was a moment in Derry where Protestants beat up a Catholic boy. In Truth Be Told it is two girls at a Peace Camp looking absolutely identical and all the intrigue that follows from such a mad coincidence.
Of course Divin has placed the girls perfectly that this might unravel in as an unlikely a zillion to one chance as their coming together. Tara’s from a nationalist family in Derry and Faith was brought up in rural Armagh in an evangelical church family.
My criticism of Divin’s work is that it is branded Young Adult when I think it should be read by every adult on the island. The advantage of the Young Adult placement does mean that Sue is inhabiting youth culture to such an extent that she can pry inside for us.
Tara and Faith reveal the issues that all our teens have to face - image, sense of belonging, purpose of existing, social media, television and of course the legacy that their parents have left them in Northern Ireland. That Faith is gay and working out how to tell a family so involved in Church adds to the depth of the study.
No spoilers but plot unfolds in the difficulties that Tara and Faith have to deal with in their own souls, their weird relationship and in their families and communities. There are revelations within that we all need to take stock of.