The Facts Speak for Themselves
by Brock Cole
About The Book
How to describe Brock Cole’s brilliant new young-adult novel, “The Facts Speak for Themselves?” Here’s how the author himself did it in a recent magazine interview: “The Facts [Speak for Themselves?”] starts with a murder and the witness to the murder is a 13-year-old girl. In the initial interrogations, it becomes clear that she was sexually involved with the man who was murdered.”
These are the facts: simple, powerful, and unsparing. But there is more, much more, and it is all recounted for the reader by the girl, Linda, in her own unemotional, matter-of-fact voice. And as she tells us her story, we begin to understand who she is and, more importantly, why she is. The child of a failed marriage, she is the daughter of a woman whose life follows a typical pattern of failure and disappointment, a woman who finally, selfishly, decides to “cease striving.” And then it becomes Linda’s turn to take charge of her feckless mother and first one and then two little brothersan almost unbearable burden for a child her age. No wonder, as critic Ilene Cooper observes, “Linda craves being taken care of after always being the caretaker, and that’s what Joe Greene [the murdered man] does for her.”
Sure to be controversial in some quarters — like Cole’s first young-adult novel, “The Goats,” which was just challenged in a Terre Haute, Indiana, public school — “The Facts Speak for Themselves?” is also receiving critical raves, including a full-page, starred review in Booklist magazine. It was also a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award for Young People’s Literature 1997, whose judges declared that the book “speaks to the remarkable resilience of the human spirit and its capacity to survive, forgive, and go forward.”
Speaking as one of those judges, I continue to be haunted by the cumulative power of Linda’s voice and by her stubborn ability to survive. I am also hugely impressed by the brilliance of her creator, Brock Cole, and his extraordinary capacity to care about kids like Linda, whose stories we usually see recounted only in screaming newspaper headlines.
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