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Sometimes We Tell the Truth

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  627 ratings  ·  155 reviews
In this contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales, a group of teens on a bus ride to Washington, DC, each tell a story—some fantastical, some realistic, some downright scandalous—in pursuit of the ultimate prize: a perfect score.

Jeff boards the bus for the Civics class trip to Washington, DC, with a few things on his mind:
-Six hours trapped with his classmates sounds
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
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Kim Zarins Hi Wendy, Sorry I didn't see your question until now. Goodreads doesn't seem to put Q&A in my notifications. I'm so glad you enjoyed the panel and the…moreHi Wendy, Sorry I didn't see your question until now. Goodreads doesn't seem to put Q&A in my notifications. I'm so glad you enjoyed the panel and the book. Yay! And yes, I have met Baba Brinkman! He performed at Santa Clara Univ when I was teaching there. The students really enjoyed his performance! (less)
Kim Zarins Yes, it's fine to read Sometimes We Tell the Truth without any knowledge of Chaucer. Some of my college students told me that they read the novel firs…moreYes, it's fine to read Sometimes We Tell the Truth without any knowledge of Chaucer. Some of my college students told me that they read the novel first and then found Chaucer's text easier to follow. In the back of the book I explain the connection between the novel and The Canterbury Tales, and I also match the medieval and modern characters, in case you are interested in knowing more.(less)

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Kim Zarins
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I accidentally clicked that I wanted to read my own book--oops! May as well go full-scale cheesy with excitement, with all five starts glittering, and tell you I loved writing this book so much. I'm a medievalist, so retelling Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with modern teens was a dream come true. Whether you have never read Chaucer or are a complete fan, I hope you'll like my debut novel! ...more
Seconds after reading it: "Oh my fuck. This. Finally! The first book of the yr I want to shake in people's faces and scream, "READ THIS FUCKING BOOK... NOW!""

First, I’ll admit it.‘The Canterbury Tales’ collects dust on my shelf and I can't recall where I got it, though I am pretty sure I stole it from the work lounge, because, after all I am like a non-cannibalistic Liv Moore, and my craving is books.

You'll be able to relate to this one, trust me! It conjures up camping trips, substitutes willin
Lisa Ramée
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was blown away by this book and okay yes I'm a Chaucer fan but that's not why I loved it so much. Interestingly it reminded me of Rowell's Fan Girl, with its mix of original fan fiction and storyline. Jeff Chaucer's confusion with his friendships and his sexuality were so well done. In fact all the characters-and there's a LOT are so fully realized. How Zarins managed to keep so many voices distinct is just amazing. I loved all the stories the students told-even Cookie's! There was a little so ...more
Marci Curtis
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oh wow...

This book, guys. It SLAYS.

Yes, it's a genius contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales, but it also has this fantastic Breakfast Club vibe that's brave and honest and raw. It's about loneliness and togetherness, and it's about turning away from things and accepting things, and it's about finding out who you are by discovering who you aren't.

A riveting story that I couldn't put down.
Bravo, Kim Zarins.
What a nice surprise!
Sometimes We Tell The Truth (SWTTT) is a contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales.
I didn't even know The Canterbury Tales when I picked this tittle, so my opinion is based on this book alone, not goin to compare this book with The Canterbury Tales whether this retelling live up the original work or not.

SWTTT is when teenagers not overly angst over everything, and you'll surprised how much fun they are. A group of teens on a bus ride to Washington, DC, for a field trip,
Jul 03, 2018 marked it as to-read
Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got from the publisher via Edelweiss.

I read parts of The Canterbury Tales in high school, but not the whole yet incomplete work. The three tales my teacher chose for us failed to leave an impact on me, but a modern retelling with a bunch of high school kids on a long bus ride to Washington DC sounded like fun.

IT WAS NOT. I spent 285 pages in hell.

To start with, our narrator Jeff is homophobic and sexist. He ended his friendship with c
Suzanne Morrone
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
I was able to read an ARC of this book, and I loved it. The voices of the teenagers were so great, I immediately felt like I was on the bus with them. And while, at first, some of the kids, the boys especially, seemed superficial, their stories, and the reactions to other's stories hinted at depths that made them really come alive.

Jeff is the narrator, and he has many secrets that eventually are revealed, with several more only hinted at. I'd love to see these kids in another book ... maybe on
Feb 24, 2017 added it
Shelves: young-adult
This is a well written book, however I'm not going to rate it because it didn't hit what I happened to be in the mood for in my reading. That's no fault of the book. I wanted something light and breezy and fast and this was not that.

This book would work well in a discussion group be it a book club, or even better, a classroom. It's a retelling of the Canterbury Tales. It's set in a contemporary setting. The narrator/mc wasn't someone I could relate to or that I even liked for most of the book un
Karen Fortunati
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Let me say flat out, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BRILLIANT DEBUT by Kim Zarins. You need to know absolutely nothing about Canterbury Tales (C.T.) to fully enjoy it. Zarins takes the C.T. format - travelers coming together on a journey who each tell a tale - and makes it her own masterful, engrossing and moving story. The majority of the action takes place on the bus from Connecticut to DC and each student on board tells a story - fact or fiction - for the ultimate prize of an A in Mr. Bailey's class. ...more
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After sitting 4-hours-a-day, 3-days-a-week for 11 weeks in a lecture ALL about Chaucer, I was DONE. That class was not easy to sit through without checking FaceBook, E-mail, or texting a few friends to come rescue me. 

Chaucer was not my beloved Bard, and he certainly wasn’t someone I planned on re-reading — unless it was on the M.A. Exam.

Thanks to a 2-week summer course, I was given the opportunity to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Sometimes We Tell the Truth. Let me tell you, I was a bit
I picked up this ARC at ALA (American Library Association) Annual conference since I forgot the book I was reading and needed something for the plane on the way home. I didn't realize that it was a retelling of The Canterbury Tales when I started, but something seemed familiar. I dig stories about storytelling, the power of story and how much the stories we tell reflect ourselves. I thought this was great - sad, heartwarming, funny, fantasy, fanfic, and even zombies! Great debut, I think teens w ...more
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Brian
Cover Story: Now Draweth Cut, Er That We Ferrer Twynne
Drinking Buddy: Wel Loved He by the Morwe a Sop in Wyn
Testosterone Level: To Lyven in Delit Was Evere His Wone, For He Was Epicurus Owene Sone
Talky Talk: In This Viage Shal Telle Tales Tweye
Bonus Factors: In Felaweshipe, and Pilgrimes Were They Alle, That Toward Caunterbury Wolden Ryde; Here Bygynneth the Book
of the Tales of Caunterbury
Bromance Status: I Saugh Nat This Yeer So Myrie a Compaignye Atones in this Herberwe as is N
Ainjel Stephens
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, lgbtq
4.5 Stars.


I stumbled upon it at the library, and it is a gem. Zarins is able to modernize the Canterbury Tales in a way that feels fresh and relevant, and she is able to create 24 completely unique character voices. The characterization is spot on, and the teenage humour is nailed perfectly. The references are very relevant, and the characters all seem so real. At times it can be a bit melodramatic, with the "everyone's got a story that could break your heart" theme, but th
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
"I would have told you all to follow your hearts and put your own experiences before anyone else's advice. No one knows you better than you do, so be true to that." ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a great book and a great retelling. The one thing I disliked was that there were no trigger warnings for this book. This book has a lot of discussions on consent and many times uses non-consensual stories to prove a point. I still enjoyed the book for the most part, because of the great writing, stories, and discussions, but I couldn't fully enjoy it due to the content of some of the stories. ...more
This was an absolutely AMAZING read!

I've never read the Caunterbury (?) Tales and probably only heard of it a few times so, I can't say much about how these two stories relate to one another. I do know that as a a modern high school setting book I thought this was done really well.

For starters, I thought it was cool how the cast was -somewhat- diverse. Really, we only know the skin colors of a few of the teens and I think that is cool because it leaves everyone else open for interpretation. Also
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Okay I know that because i'm a 12th grade English Teacher i'm automatically more inclined to totally nerd out over books that adapt the material I teach but YOU GUYS! This book is freaking FLAWLESS!

As I was reading I was picking things that I could use in class to supplement our reading and I was lucky enough to get to talk on Twitter with Kim Zarins about the ideas i'm having for how to incorporate her book with my teaching.

She does EVERYTHING I do when I teach these stories. It helps SO MUCH t
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
When I read the first story about zombies vying for the love of a human scientist, I knew I would be in for a wild ride in this modern retelling of the Canterbury Tales, set on a senior class bus trip to DC. Kim Zarins has done a masterful job of weaving together stories that are funny, tragic, bawdy, romantic, and surprising--much like the characters who tell them. The narrator, Jeff Chaucer, is particularly compelling as he faces both the usual struggle of trying to fit into the high school so ...more
Linda Joan
Aug 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Kim Zarins's SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH is a story within a story within a story, each one entertaining, and each hiding wisdom at its core. First, there's the story of a class of hormonally hyped-up high school seniors, on their way to DC on a bus, who've been challenged to a storytelling contest by their teacher. Second, there are the no-holds-barred tales they tell, both raunchy and far-fetched, to win the prize of an easy A: a zany mix of tales that mirror those of Chaucer's bawdy pilgrims ...more
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Who thought a Chaucer could become a 21st Century storyteller?

This is a beautifully told, fun and heartbreaking story about a group of teens and their multi-layered journey to Washington DC, as they interact, joke, offend, and learn about each other, divulging their personal truths through stories. Zarins, and so the reader, move seamlessly between the reality of the bus ride and the teens' tales, which range from bawdy to platonic, from zombies to kings and queens to Harry Potter and beyond. T
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
OH MY GOSH. This book is pure genius. I haven’t read the Canterbury tales or anything but I am completely amazed at how fantastic this is. It’s a combination of romance and high school drama, while also incorporating other genres in the stories being told. I am fascinated and will honestly reread in a few weeks.
Aug 05, 2016 marked it as to-read
A retelling of the canterbury tales??? as a student of anguage and literature how could I not be excited about this??
I really enjoyed this! Very clever reworking of the Canterbury Tales, both adapting the original stories and reimagining them in a modern context. I particularly enjoyed the way Zarins used fanfiction and had her characters use existing characters to tell their stories, reflecting the way Chaucer draws on Classical literature and well-known stories when telling HIS. She talks about it in the author's note and I thought it was a really intriguing way of approaching it.

There was maybe more discuss
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“It is a fact universally acknowledged, that a young, unmarried woman is in want of a dolphin.”

In a modern day retelling of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, twenty-two high school seniors sharing a Civics class, their young, hopeful teacher, Mr. Bailey, and a disgruntled bus driver take a class trip to Washington D.C. How does Kim Zarins’ debut novel, Sometimes We Tell the Truth, adapt The Canterbury Tales to a modern day high school field trip? Zarins has each student tell a story and whoever ha
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To be honest I went into this book with no previous knowledge of Chaucer or his Tales. My mom had gotten me a copy at a Harry Potter event, so I decided to read it(It was signed personally to me! How could I not be interested?). Anyways I instantly was hooked after reading the first page and I fell completely head-over-heels for this book after reading the prologue!
The uniqueness of this story astounded me, there were many references to things I loved but the plot was something I had never seen
Sam Kiff
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adore this book. This group of students ranges from the popular, The in the middle kids, and the complete outcast. Yet, there is a sense of community within the group. Each one gets to tell a story during their 6 hour bus ride to D.C. Each story is different. Some are true, while some are not. The main character, and narrator, Jeff, is only trying to fit in. He’s quite relatable, and faces issues throughout the book that will allow readers to sympathize with him.
With all of the different char
Jamie Tuggle
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Sometimes We Tell the Truth is a book I was introduced to during a college-level Chaucer class, but never got the chance to really read through it. As I am introducing Chaucer to my high schoolers, I found myself remembering how fun & engaging this book seemed and that it would be worth revisiting. Sometimes We Tell the Truth is a great rendition of the classic Canterbury Tales that has humor (although we can't deny Chaucer didn't have humor) & a playful writing style to keep readers engaged. Za ...more
Meira (readingbooksinisrael)
It was just vulgar. Some of the stories were really good, but there were others that were just vulgar, and it's not what I expected.

I didn't really connect with the ending either. There were some nicely written moments, and Mr. Bailey was pretty cool.

But I am going to start the real Canterbury Tales now! Especially with this book as background and the resources it has in the back. My problem is I'm worried about how with this books I realized I didn't really like the multiple stories thing. But
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
A fine adaptation for a YA novel to introduce Chaucer. But I am afraid I found it unbearable at the age I’m at now. Interesting to look at if you study Chaucer. Painful if you cannot stand YA novels.
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I'm a medievalist at Sacramento State University, and I also teach children's literature. My modernized retelling of the Canterbury Tales is called Sometimes We Tell the Truth. You don't have to know anything about Chaucer to enjoy the story, and if you know the Canterbury Tales, you'll see the novel on a whole other level. I hope you'll like it!

If you want to chat about books, it would be great t

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