Today I’m going to be talking about True Biz by Sarah Novic. This is one of my most anticipated books of the year, or at least the first half of the year.
I will be completely honest and say I don’t know what’s coming out later this year. But I saw that this was coming out this year, and I was excited because I read Sarah Novic’s previous book, a girl at War, and I really enjoyed it.
So when I heard that Sara Novic was coming out with a new book, and then when I heard what the synopsis was or read what the synopsis was, I got even more excited.
The True Biz Book Summary
So this book mainly takes place at river valley school for the Deaf. And so you are mainly following three points of view. There is Charlie, who is someone who is deaf, and she has spent most of her life going to like “standard” schools, I suppose, and kind of just struggling through.
Her parents had an implant put in to try to help her with her hearing so that she could hear and speak. But she had a lot of difficulties with it, and she has had a lot of trouble in school, like getting into a lot of trouble and things like that.
And so her parents have finally decided to have her attend this school for the deaf so that there’s potential there for her to have a better life.
It’s basically set up like a boarding school where the kids all live in dorms and things like that. Then there is Austin, who comes from a deaf family, and he’s kind of like a popular kid in school and well-known within the deaf community and things like that.
Because his family is primarily deaf, you know, they’re extremely fluent in ASL (American Sign Language), and they’re really involved in the community and things like that.
And so there’s Austin is kind of like the opposite of Charlie, and Austin is assigned to Charlie to be sort of like her guide as she joins the school and sort of to help her catch up with asl and things like that.
And then the third perspective is an older woman named February, who is the daughter of someone who is deaf, and she is basically the principal at the school.
And so the story begins from February’s point of view, where she finds out that three kids from the school, including Charlie and Austin, have now disappeared, and she has no idea where they’ve gone.
And then you sort of flashback in time, and you see Charlie’s first day at school, and you follow basically like a school year, or close to a full school year, and you get to see sort of like how Charlie integrates into this new community and how it changes her perspective on being deaf.
So I was really excited about this book, like I said, because I’ve loved Sara Novic’s previous work but also because it follows characters who are deaf, which I will admit that I don’t think I really have a lot of experience with reading books featuring deaf characters, and especially now with like deafness and the deaf community and ASL being primary parts of this book.
This book is written in a really interesting way where no quotation marks are used throughout the book.
So when they’re speaking verbally, it’s just written as normal text, but when they are signing to each other, it’s indented and italicized and formatted in a specific way so you can tell that like two characters are signing to each other.
And the fact that, like the speaking part, isn’t given quotations, I thought was a really interesting choice. Part of me was wondering if it’s because, like, if you are deaf or hard of hearing and you can, like, partially hear or understand what people are saying, or you can, like, partially verbalize things.
Those noises aren’t like super clear, and it’s more just like ASL is given the dominant feature in this book.
There’s also the fact that, like throughout this book, there are parts here that teach you ASL.
So there is one talk about how nouns, verbs, and adjectives work in asl and things like that. And it shows like the instructions for if you wanted to sign certain words, things like that.
And so basically, if you were to get a language book teaching ASL, this is kind of like a page that you would get, and that’s scattered throughout the book.
There’s also information here about like deaf history and the evolution of ASL as a language and things like that.
And so it’s really interesting to read this book because you’re following this fictional story, but there’s a lot of like real history woven throughout it to teach you many things that are not typically taught or talked about.
So I really, really enjoyed the book for that. I also thought that comparing Charlie and Austin as someone who has grown up completely learning asl from birth compared to someone trying to learn ASL later in life is a really interesting contrast.
You know, the two families have a really interesting contrast. You learn a lot about their families and their family home life situations and things like that.
And so there are some like really interesting conversations that take place in here about what’s best for these kids, the difficult choices that parents are presented with and them trying to make what they think is the best choice possible, about how it has like ramifications and things along those lines.
And so I really really appreciated this book for all of those aspects, and those like parts of the book were really what I enjoyed about this.
This is mainly a young adult novel, so much coming-of-age stuff is happening here. Charlie is a complicated character.
I would say she’s basically like the main character here. She gets most of the time in this book and is a really complicated character.
As I mentioned before, she would get into trouble. It briefly talks about her life at her old school and the situations she got herself into.
There is like drinking and drug use and stuff like that’s utilized in here, but I feel like the way that Sarah Novic talks about those things in here, she neither demonizes the characters for using it nor glorifies the experience of it, which I thought was a really interesting balance that most I think storytellers in general.
Like rarely achieve, whether it’s books, TV, movies, or anything else. And again, I appreciate this book for that.
The one sort of like downfall for me is I think that Eleanor, the principal, her sort of points of view really detract from the story. Like they add color and explain a lot about the school itself, they help provide a point of view that, again, is unique as someone who can hear and verbally speak but also is extremely fluent in asl because her mother was deaf.
It’s, again, a unique perspective that’s provided, but like in terms of how her storyline integrates with the rest of the book, it was a little bit detached.
And I will say that those points of view or those chapters made it feel like this book was moving much slower.
Again, it’s a young adult, so you would think of it as more plot-focused, but this was definitely a more character-focused young adult book.
So it moves a little bit slower. So just like prepare yourself for that. This is a book that, like, I was never itching to go back to it, necessarily, until basically the end of the book where, you know, events start happening, and the action starts ramping up a little bit, and then I was really excited to keep going to see how it was all gonna turn out.
But like the first almost 200 pages, I enjoyed my experience while reading this book, but I was never itching to get back to it if that makes sense.
There are also kind of these one-off chapters from a couple of different side characters, and I don’t know if I fully love them.
Like, I have mixed feelings about them. One of them is from Charlie’s roommate’s point of view, who is black, and so I will admit there’s like an incident that happens in here, and before that incident, I had no idea that Kayla, the roommate, was black.
Then you get a chapter from Kayla’s point of view, which again was interesting because it teaches you about black ASL, but it almost feels a bit trope-y in a certain way because you don’t get much else from Kayla.
And so it’s kind of just like used as a way to have that discussion rather than making Kayla feel like her own person.
So yeah, it’s just like little things like that where like these characters feel almost like props to discuss a specific part of the deaf community, which I don’t know.
I don’t think that’s the intention, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but that’s how that specific part felt to me.
The True Biz Book Review and Ratings
The Book gets to a bit of a slower start, and I liked the choices and elements here. I didn’t necessarily love how they were handled, especially some of the events that happened later on in the book, which, again, I’m not gonna get into too much detail about.
But if you read the book, you know, kind of like the way things wrap up feels a little bit unsatisfactory, which maybe was done on purpose.
And it’s like a thing I’ve been pondering since I finished the book, like whether or not Sara Novic left the ending somewhat ambiguous because that’s kind of like how life is.
But it does feel a little bit unsatisfactory. So I don’t know, mixed feelings on that end. But overall, I really enjoyed my experience reading this book, and I would highly recommend it.
I think that if you enjoy a good coming-of-age story and more character-focused young adult books, you would definitely be interested in something like this.
And also, if you are interested in reading about the deaf community or reading books with deaf characters or anything along those lines, I feel like this is just a really unique perspective that you don’t get a lot in books, and I definitely enjoyed my time reading this book.
So like, overall, I would rate this a 3.75. I’ll probably round it up to four stars, but this book was good overall.
I think I had higher expectations than maybe I should have read this book because I really enjoyed Girl at War and expected this to be slightly different.
But I think Sara Novic was trying to cover a lot of things in this book and provide a lot of different perspectives because, again, you don’t read books featuring deaf characters very often and especially like going really deep, not deep, but like providing a lot of history about asl and the deaf community and things like that.
And so, by doing all of that, it’s really informational, but I do think that some of the characters and some of the storylines are not as deep as I typically want it to be, which obviously is a personal preference.
So yeah, those are my quick thoughts about true biz. Let me know in the comments below if you read this book what your thoughts were on it. Or, if you have any questions about the book, feel free to leave that down in the comment section as well.