True (. . . sort of) by Katherine Hannigan is both fun and serious. It is also an example of why I have learned to trust my instincts – some of my favorite books are the ones I happen to stumble upon.  This book falls squarely into that category.

The main character is Delly Pattison, a short, sassy spitfire of a girl who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Delly has enough of a reputation in her family, at school, and in her town that she is the first suspect in all disasters.  She even has a strong relationship with a local police officer after she frees chickens at the local fair. At first the troubles are innocent and unintended.  But as she gets more and more blame for her behavior, Delly begins to accept the role of "problem child."

But Delly’s world begins to change when a new student comes to town.  Ferris Boyd is a bundle of issues – she is a girl who looks like a boy, she doesn’t talk, and she plays basketball better than anyone has ever seen.  Even Brud Kinney, the local basketball star for the Catholic school, has never seen such a player. Ferris intrigues Delly, and Delly is persistent in her efforts to befriend and understand Ferris.

This novel shows how these three children, along with Delly’s younger brother RB, have to counter their fears and their personal demons to reach a place where they can truly trust each other. 

This book does an amazing job of exploring how hard Delly works to control her impulses. Delly needs to calm down if she wants to spend time with Ferris. She first tries RB’s suggestion to count before she acts, but she gets so overwhelmed by counting that she no longer feels any joy in life.  Her next strategy is brilliant and successful:  every time she wants to act out, she asks an honest question, which defuses the situation.  For example, in the middle of a major argument with her sister Galveston, Delly finally asks, “Galveston, do you hate me?”  At first her sister shouts “Yes,” but she finally gets to the point where she says, “You’re always making Ma upset and getting Dad mad.  It’s always about you and your trouble, and I hate it.”  The truth makes Delly and Galveston stop fighting, and begin to actually work through everything.  It doesn’t make Delly happy, but she can keep herself under control because she sees the truth in Galveston’s words.

The book deals with some really serious issues, but it never feels too preachy.  I highly recommend it.