Across the Page: Coming of Age and Coming Out


Dare, Truth or Promise by Paula Boock (Graphia)

Paula Boock’s Dare,
Truth or Promise
features two teenager girls, Willa and Louie, from a small
town in New Zealand,
who fall in love despite numerous challenges and interferences.

When Louie first meets Willa she has no idea that this
beautiful redheaded girl is going to change everything she knows about family,
friendship, love and life.

Willa, in
contrast, is a bit more jaded. She lives above a bar with her hippie mother and recently switched schools after the
administration discovered that her relationship with another girl, Cathy, was more than just platonic.

While Louie is trusted and admired by her parents and
teachers alike, Willa is still reeling from her breakup with Cathy and soon odd
letters begin to show up around her house. 
The notes are intimidating and often contradictory — from “I love you” to
“Die, bitch.”

The novel is told in multiple points of view, which offers
the reader an inside look into both character’s perspectives.  As their friendship emerges into something
more complex and intimate than either had expected, Willa slowly begins to
trust again and Louie struggles with keeping the relationship a secret.

Louie’s family meets Willa as her “friend” and while they
eat dinner everyone takes turns asking her questions to help get to know her
better. The questions are playful and
harmless, but Willa can see that Louie’s mother understands that there is
something different about her daughter’s relationship with this new girl. 

When it’s Louie’s mother’s turn to ask a question, she wants
Willa to describe her Ideal Man. “I think people just happen,” Willa cleverly
responds, “Love just happens.  And then
everything is changed, forever.

Her answer does little to relieve Louie’s mother’s suspicion
and when she later discovers the girls in an intimate moment, she forces them
to breakup. Louie is devastated and
confused. The breakup feels like déjà vu
for Willa: “Sicko Willa, corrupting poor straight Louie.  That’s what her family would tell her, that’s
what Louie would believe, and maybe, maybe that was the truth?”

During Willa and Louie’s separation, Cathy re-emerges from
the past and while all of the characters learn a lesson about the consequences
of denying your identity, Willa finally gets some surprising answers about the
writer of the notes she’s been receiving over the last few months.

But ultimately it takes an event more personal and dramatic to put Louie and Willa’s relationship into perspective.

p>Dare, Truth or Promise is a beautifully written story about growing up, falling in love, and that tricky journey of teaching your parents a lessonor two.

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