The Truth Against the World, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Books like The Truth Against the World, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson (Flux, June 2014, upper Middle Grade/younger YA), are exactly the reason I call it "Timeslip Tuesday" instead of "Time Travel Tuesday."    Without the concept of time-slipping, I'd have to call this one a ghost story.  And indeed there is a ghost--a sad little Welsh ghost girl--but there are also dreams that break down the barriers of past and present, and are more like windows into the past.....

The dreams are dreamt by an American girl, Wyn (short for Olwen), who's Welsh great-grandma, Rhiannon, is dying.  Rhiannon wants to go home to Wales one last time before the end, and so Wyn and her parents travel with  her.  And Wyn begins to dream, and begins, through her dreaming, to realize that her great-grandmother has been holding memories that she has never shared.    There is a mystery to be unraveled about what happened to Rhiannon in the years just after WW II....

And also caught in the same mystery is London boy named Gareth, whose Great-granddad lives in the same village where Riannon was from.   There in Wales Gareth meets a the little ghost girl...and she is very instant that he come back to keep her company.  So much so that her image, her song, her words begin to haunt him even back in London.  Her name, like Wyn's, is Olwen Nia Evans.  And thanks to Google, Gareth finds the American Wyn, and they meet in Wales.

The ghost Olwen seems desperate for them to find out her story.  But Rhiannon is dying, and has no strength to re-tell her past, and others in the village who might no the truth seem determined to keep it buried.   But the dreams keep coming to Wyn, showing her the past....and at last she and Gareth find out what really happened long ago.

(That's the part that makes this a timeslip story--they are very vivid dreams, such that she is an on-looker.  And at one point she's so almost present that someone in the past seems to see her, which clinched it in my mind).

This one was an excellent read for me this past week--enough happens in terms of the slow progression of the mystery and in the friendship between Wyn and Gareth that I was satisfied without being over-whelmed (though those who like Fast Paced Excitement and lots of onward rush might, however, find it too slow).   I very much enjoyed visiting Wales for the first time with Wyn--cool and green, which was also just what I was wanting!  Even though I guessed who the ghost girl must be pretty quickly, I still enjoyed watching the gradual unfolding of the clues.

I think this would be a lovely one to give to a dreamy 11- 13 year old girl (grades 6-8), one who's not ready for full blown YA romantic sci fi/fantasy -- and I am thinking that at that age I might well have been naïve enough not to have guessed who little ghost Olwen was.   

(Speaking of naiveté-- I think it's good to have books like this that gently push young readers toward adult concepts, like sex having consequences, keeping it off to the side with secondary characters in the past, and no graphic content at all.   Some readers charge forward, others need to be nudged....and this is a nice nudge level book.)

Note: if you see a picture of this book for sale, don't be put off by its appearance of wear and tear!  That is part of the cover design--a sort of metaphoric layering of the old within the new just as happens in the story.

disclaimer:  Sarah is a friend of mine--she told me about this one way back last fall when we were room-mates at KidLitCon in Austin, and I have been dying to read it ever since!


  1. I really liked this one and its slow progression. I loved how the past and present intertwined and the relationships across generations. And I agree with you about the sex/consequences and that being kept to side characters. This was a very atmospheric read too which I always enjoy.

  2. I enjoyed The Latte Rebellion so even though both books are different I really want to check it out. I liked her writing.



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