Horror, suspense, confessional, epistolary tale, recovery memoir, cautionary tale, even, late in the novel, paranoiac noir — Petty leaps from genre to genre with dizzying velocity. At first, it’s jolting, but slowly we begin to see how she’s using shifting genres to show the way trauma works on us, how it shapes our lived experience and the way we frame that experience for others and for our own survival ... Initially, I found the resolution intellectually impressive rather than narratively or emotionally satisfying. But after a day or two, the book continued to work on me, spurring me to question my own expectations of genre, and even story itself, and their capacity to get at stickier truths about trauma and its reverberations and what we expect from narratives dealing with sexual assault. What is ideologically sound is not always narratively exciting, but is that a failure of execution or a failure of genre conventions? ... Ultimately, the novel’s true twist is less about what unfurled that fateful night than it is about form, voice, authorship.
... delectable ... The actual facts of the event remain mysterious until Alice pieces them together, detective-style, as an adult; the reader pieces things together alongside her until, with a flourish, all is revealed, and it is time to go back and start the book over to puzzle out how the author did it. (With great skill and intelligence, it turns out.) Your enjoyment of any book in this realm will hinge on your willingness to be cleverly duped; personally, I love a sense of earned bamboozlement.
With sections written in prose, college admissions essays, movie scripts and more, this is a fresh and wholly original take on an all-too-common horror story ... Petty weaves a poignant, riveting novel about the power of a story --- and how differently that power can be wielded depending on who is telling it. What is initially so striking about True Story is how easy it is to feel for and even root for Nick and his friends. In only a few short pages, Petty gives us intimate access to their sensitive sides, their insecurities and the ways that toxic masculinity has harmed and shaped them. Nick is a perfect protagonist, keenly observant and oftentimes wise beyond his years, but still coddled by society and told that he is exceptional because he is white, male and heterosexual ... Alice is also a highlight of the novel. With her talent for voice, the passages written in her hand read like a nearly academic character study in the best ways. Petty uses Alice's own college admissions essays, screenplays and interviews to tell us more about her than seems possible, and once again forces us to consider the power of voice and stories. It would be a huge disservice to reveal too much about Alice in this review, but I can say that her journey is one of the most shocking I’ve ever read, and it will certainly stay with me for a long time ... In writing about the power of the rumor at the heart of True Story, Petty turns her novel into an almost meta exploration of story. She pulls at her readers’ emotions, dragging them along every dark possibility and then just as swiftly upends their expectations, forcing them to consider how easily they can be swayed by a good storyteller --- and Petty is one of the very best. Her use of different formats and voices never once fails to meet the incredibly high standards she has set for herself. Yet somehow, even when I was not quite sure where her writing was taking me, I always ended up dumbfounded by her talent and breathtaking observations about life, womanhood and power ... an inventive and completely original novel, even when judged on format and technical ability alone. But if you take Petty’s skillful writing and combine it with her timely commentaries on sexual assault and consent, and add to that the sheer poignancy of her characters' transformations, you have something else entirely: a true masterpiece.