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True Story by Kate Reed Petty
Contemporary fiction

True Story

by Kate Reed Petty

Quick take

Genre-bending at its finest. Horror, revenge, and suspense are all mixed into one feminist tale with a serious edge.

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Content warning: This book includes descriptions of sexual violence.

Why I love it

Mona Awad
Author, Bunny

I remember picking up True Story last fall, devouring it in two sittings, and thinking about it long after. It has everything I love in a novel: a propulsive voice, a brilliantly dark sense of humor and play, and a sense, too, from the very first page, that the storyteller has a dangerous and urgent secret to tell me.

Petty’s novel is the story of an assault and a rumor that shapes one woman’s life. Alice Lovett is a ghost writer who is haunted by the events of one fateful night from her high school years. Other figures in the sinister orbit of this night are Nick Brothers, a Lacrosse player who bears a kind of witness, and Haley Moreland, Nick’s crush and Alice’s friend. Playing boldly with genre, form, and perspective, Petty reveals the true story and how it shadows and dogs each of their lives.

True Story was a singular and spellbinding reading experience for me—it kept me gripped until the very end, seeping eerily into my dreams. Not only is it a profoundly empathetic exploration of victims and perpetrators, lies and truth, and how stories both can destroy and empower us, but I love how it darkly shimmers with shades of thriller, fairy tale, campy horror, and urban legend in order to give powerful voice to its unspeakable and timely truth. Think the baleful nostalgia and fever dreaminess of Twin Peaks with a feminist heart blazing at its core.

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A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she cannot tell: the story of, as she puts it, "the things that happened while I was asleep."

Back in 1999, Nick Brothers and his high school lacrosse team return for their senior year in a well-to-do Baltimore suburb as the reigning state champs. The afterglow of their big win is bound to last until graduation; not even the pressure of college applications can get in the way of their fun. But when a private school girl attempts suicide in the wake of one of the team's "legendary" parties, and a rumor begins to circulate that two of Nick's teammates sexually assaulted her, it seems like it might ruin everything—until the team circles the wagons, casts doubt on the story, and the town moves on.

But not everyone does. Fifteen years later, four people—Alice, Nick, a documentary filmmaker, and a wealthy entrepreneur—remain haunted by the roles they played, the things they still don't understand, and how the story has shaped their lives. In sections told from different points of view, each more propulsive than the last, the layers of mystery are gradually peeled back as we barrel toward the truth of what really happened that night... and what came after.

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Get an early look from the first pages of True Story.

Member thoughts

All (1273)
All (1273)
Love (350)
Like (671)
Dislike (252)
1313 ratings
  • 27% Love
  • 51% Like
  • 19% Dislike
  • Chicago , IL

    I’ve never read anything like this! Loved the unique storytelling and mash-up of genres and writing styles. It won’t work for everyone, but it was a very fun reading experience for me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Peoria, AZ

    I love the mashup of writing styles of this book. It’s amazing how trauma, whether it’s “real” or not, can shape your whole entire life. Often times my heart was pounding as I read. What a great read!

  • Lawrence, KS

    I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book as most of us know “that girl.” But the story feels so real and has so many turns it felt satisfying. Good example how the truth lied somewhere in the middle

  • Norman, OK

    This one was wild. I didn’t know what was coming next—it jumped from narrative to screenplay and back and forth in time—the end was a reveal that I wasn’t expecting. It won’t be everyone’s pick.

  • Savage, MN

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️! Wow finally a twist I didn’t see coming. The read can be confusing at times but stick with it! The end makes jt make sense. Not a typical thriller twist, I loved this book!

  • Denver, CO

    I loved the use of different writing forms and POVs to get to the “truth” of what happened to the night of the party, because when you get the “true story” you are left to question if it is true.

  • Saint Cloud , MN

    Very good! Not what I expected as it was very different from the other psychological thrillers I normally get. The writing style was also super different from any book I’ve ever read, but I loved it!

  • Cicero, NY

    I loved the unique layout of this story. This book was such a wild ride, I ended up not knowing what was fiction and what was real. I loved reading through the chapter as Alice reclaims her life back

  • Bristol, CT

    I loved this womans own voices novel by Petty. This story starts out as a high school rumor that has consequences for all characters involved even 15 years later. I recommend all young women to read.

  • Woodstock, GA

    Incredible. Brilliant. This is an absolute masterpiece. The style is so incredibly unique and interesting and makes the story that much more powerful. Easily one of the strongest reads of this year

  • East Hampton, CT

    This was nothing that I expected & better than I could have imagined. It was completely original & beautifully written. Twists don’t get me often anymore, but this ending left me with goosebumps.

  • Pasadena, MD

    I was floored by the originality behind this novel. The way it was written was genius! The story is a perfect example of how trauma can change the trajectory of someone’s life. Brilliant! Bravo!

  • Hermiston, OR

    i actually read this on my kindle but i loved it! the different perspectives add so much to the story, and you really start to feel for alice. 4.5/5 stars, but definitely pay attention to the FYI

  • Tacoma, WA

    I enjoyed all the different narrative devices used to tell this story and it had an ending I really didn't see coming. I assumed this would be a standard he said/she said-type account & it's not

  • Seneca Falls, NY

    This is a heart wrenching story told from multiple angles in a really unique way. It is the type of story I find myself thinking about long after having finished the book. I highly recommend it!

  • Rochester , WA

    I couldnt put this book down. I enjoyed how different characters all had their own voice. This author does internal dialogue and multiple POV extremely well. I cant wait to read more from her.

  • Pleasant gap, PA

    This is hands down the best book I have read in an incredibly long time. I can't even recall the last time I read a book that I really had no clue that ending was coming. A must read!!!!

  • Budd Lake, NJ

    The mix of styles and genres was impressive and fascinating. I've seen this described like Twin Peaks, and while this is much different, both stories are delightfully hallucinating.

  • Toledo, OH

    The genre-bending format was fully engaging. This book was nothing like I expected, but so much more. The twist genuinely surprised me in a way few twists have. Brilliant!!

  • Sterling Heights, MI

    Really interesting the variation in the modes of storytelling (letters, emails, narrative, screenplay, audio tape transcript) and shifting perspectives.

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