The latest YA novel from Carolrhoda Lab explores the meaning of truth in a time when alternative views and versions of events are the norm.
Truthers, by Geoffrey Girard, follows 17-year-old Katie Wallace, who was only a year old when terrorists struck American soil on 9/11. But now her dad has landed in a mental institution after claiming that the attacks were part of a government conspiracy. Katie is drawn into the strange world of conspiracy theorists. What is fact and what is fiction? Katie no longer knows what to believe.
Publishers Weekly gave the title a starred review:
★ “A fast-paced nail-biter with a resourceful heroine, packed with surprises that force readers to question every revelation and take nothing at face value.”—Publishers Weekly
In an author’s note at the end of the book, Girard shares why he felt compelled to write about this tragic event sixteen years after it happened.
On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda (a militant Islamist group with global reach and aims) coordinated a terrorist attack on the United States by hijacking four commercial jets to crash into high-profile American targets. The operation took two years and half a million dollars to prepare and execute.
The result: One plane crashed into the Pentagon; two others were flown into the World Trade Center (causing both towers and another nearby building to collapse); and the fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field during a struggle between the hijackers and passengers. In all, nearly three thousand people were killed. Al-Qaeda claimed full responsibility.
These are the events as recounted by the U.S. government, other governments, the general media, and numerous history books and qualified investigations since.
Yet more than one third of Americans believe it is (in the words of a Scripps Howard poll) “somewhat” or “very” likely that “federal officials either participated in the attacks” or “took no action to stop them” because they “wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.”
Governments have a long record of not disclosing the full truth to their citizens for a variety of reasons, and the events of 9/11 are among the most complicated, mysterious, and challenged in American history. This novel hopes to explore those complications, mysteries, and challenges. Several characters in this novel support alternative versions of what occurred on 9/11—ideas many readers will find absurd or offensive. I merely hope only to use these ideas to explore the causes and effects of conspiracy theories, as well as questions about civic duty and the nature of truth.
I teach high school English, and many of my students look at 9/11 the way I once looked at the Vietnam conflict: with curiosity but little understanding of a time “before” me. My freshmen were not alive when 9/11 occurred. Still, they and my older students have many questions about its history—including, of course, “the conspiracy stuff.”
More than fifteen years after 9/11, the biggest national event yet of my lifetime, I wanted to write about it. To learn about it. I wanted to introduce a new generation (the one I’m currently teaching, the one my own sons are in) to that day and its ripple effects—including the Truther phenomenon that followed—which permeate almost every tragedy that has befallen us since. And ultimately, I wanted to write about Katie and Max.
Few works of fiction regarding 9/11 have escaped the criticism that they are exploiting the victims. To those who feel I’ve done so here, I can only apologize and state that the exact opposite was my sincerest intention.