Book Review: “Nothing But the Truth” is cautious tale about how media can be biased

Book Review:

Aneesha Aryan, Staff Writer

Nothing but the Truth by Avi is a book that shows how things can be subjective and objective, and our point of view can make things unnecessarily complicated. It also shows in a quite interesting way how a small event can become so much bigger and dramatic.

The conflict here is fairly simple: A 9th grader, Philip Malloy, likes track, but his bad grade in English stopped him from joining the team. He thinks it is because his English teacher Ms. Narwin has it out for him and so he wants to annoy her. He has Ms. Narwin for homeroom– where they do the morning announcements– and before they play the anthem they ask that everyone, “‘Please all rise and stand at respectful, silent attention for the playing of our national anthem.’” Philip decides to sing along which is clearly breaking the rules. He does this three times, each time getting sent to the office. The third time he is suspended for causing a nuisance. Here the news media comes in and makes the incident much more complicated than it needed to be.

The escalation in the story’s plot is very similar to what happened to Michelle Obama in 2008. Another simple beginning: Michelle Obama, being friendly, gave an encouraging fist bump to her husband, the former president Obama. Of course the news media jumped into action and took the story out of control, talking about how clearly she was directing a “terrorist jab.” Even The New Yorker published an edition with a cover of a drawing of the former FLOTUS dressed like a terrorist with an evil look on her face jabbing the president who appeared to be dressed as a Muslim! “It was an image meant to raise hackles, and it did,” wrote The Guardian. Suddenly, Michelle Obama was a terrorist working with the president, who turned into an evil Muslim. There were arguments and entire news articles over a small, nice gesture: a fist bump. 

This event is much like what happens to Philip in the book; it starts off as a simple event and then the news media makes assumptions and opinions on what happened. Very quickly, everything is made a much bigger issue than it needs to be. The media is ignorant in a way, as both in the book and in real life they decide they only need one side of the stories they print: only their opinions and what they see. I believe things may seem different on the surface but there is always more once anyone digs deeper. The media is extremely opinionated and one-sided. In both instances the actual story gets lost in the headlines.

I learned so much about objective versus subjective in Nothing but the Truth. The more newspapers that pick up a story and the further in time they get from the event, the further they get from the truth. So in turn, the stories become less objective and more subjective, or biased. Avi’s book shows the media’s naivete to learning the whole story, its influence, and how fallible it is in a real way that is extremely believable. In his introduction, he actually says that many of his readers (principals) accuse him of stealing their own school memos! 

After reading this book I am realizing I should be more careful of what I listen to and that, even though it may not be entirely their fault, the news media is almost always biased and opinionated because we are all human after all! 

Avi’s book, written as a collection of memos, news clips and transcriptions, ties together into a deeply relevant moral. I hope reading this book encourages the readers to be cautioned and careful with what media readers decide to believe and ignore, and to always think more than twice about sources.