The Facts Speak for Themselves

The Facts Speak for Themselves

4.2 7
by Brock Cole

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This is the story of how thirteen-year-old Linda came to be involved in the murder of one man and the suicide of another. The police and her social worker think they know the answer, but they've got it wrong. Here Linda tells her own story. She sees her world and what has happened to her with compelling clarity. Her voice is direct, cool, and ruthlessly honest. She

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This is the story of how thirteen-year-old Linda came to be involved in the murder of one man and the suicide of another. The police and her social worker think they know the answer, but they've got it wrong. Here Linda tells her own story. She sees her world and what has happened to her with compelling clarity. Her voice is direct, cool, and ruthlessly honest. She'll persuade you that she is neither victim nor fool - that the facts speak for themselves in this National Book Award Finalist.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
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 brothers—an 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'sLiterature 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.

A former English teacher with a Ph.D. in philosophy, 59-year-old Cole came to writing through another form of narrative: illustration. He published his first picture book, "The King at the Door," in 1979. Five more followed before "The Goats" appeared in 1987. Like his latest, this novel is also an affecting story of survival. His second young-adult novel,"Celine", was published in 1989. Its protagonist is a 16-year-old girl who, like Linda, tells her own story. Cole recalls, "Sometimes when I was working on the novel, it was just as if I was writing down what she told me."

Linda's voice was harder for him to hear, he told a Publishers Weekly interviewer, since "it's so far away from mine." One thing is sure: It will never be far away from the reader's mind—or heart. There are no neat resolutions to Linda's problems, no happy ending all wrapped up in a pretty, sentimental bow. But there is cause for cautious optimism. And the reader will supply the heartfelt hope.

The important thing about books like this is the opportunity they give us to examine the lives of people whom we may never have encountered in what we call "real life." Moreover, when these people are introduced to us in the pages of a novel as powerful as "The Facts Speak for Themselves," we readers are given the rare opportunity to eavesdrop on their hearts. Our own emotions become engaged, as a result, and maybe, just maybe, if we ever do meet a Linda in real life, we may be stirred to find ways to help her. Until then we can only be grateful to Brock Cole for his art, and to his publisher, Front Street, for its courage in giving us Linda's story with all of its hard edges intact.—Michael Cart

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
PW's Best Books citation called this story of a sexually abused 13-year-old who witnesses the murder of the man with whom she's been having an affair a "brilliant psychological study. The author's stringent refusal to resolve disturbing questions raised by the girl's version of events gives his writing a devastating authenticity." Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
VOYA - Ed Sullivan
Thirteen-year-old Linda is in the custody of a shelter since witnessing Frank Perry, one of her mother's many lovers and father of Linda's younger brother, shoot Jack Green, the mother's employer who has been sexually abusing Linda. After killing Green, Perry commits suicide. That is how this novel begins. What follows is Linda's first-person account, told to a social worker, of events leading up to that incident. Linda's life has been one of abuse and neglect from the beginning. Her father commits suicide when she is very young and her mother immediately jumps into another relationship with a man who sexually molests Linda. That relationship falls apart, but not before Linda's mother has another child. The mother then takes Linda and her baby brother to live in Florida with a man as old as Linda's grandfather. Life is stable for a while, but when the man becomes senile, mother takes off with little brother, leaving Linda, now ten or eleven, to care for the old man. She manages well for some time, but eventually goes to live with her mother again, who is with Frank in Minnesota. Mother is now pregnant with another child. Green gives Linda's mother a job in his real estate office and has sex with Linda. Why Perry shoots Green is never clear. It is suggested that he too wanted to have sex with Linda but resisted, so his motive might have been sick jealousy. As if all that is not horrific enough, Cole compounds the horror by having Linda relate the narrative in an emotionally detached, matter-of-fact tone that is utterly chilling. Even more disturbing than the narration is the lack of resolution. The story ends with Linda saying: "These are the facts. What more is there to say?" Linda says she realizes her involvement with Green was a mistake, but she shows no remorse. Knowing no other life, she does not realize how horribly she has been treated. Linda is truly a tragic character, a victim who does not know she is one. Readers might be put off by this tone and the vague ending, but also must consider that this story probably is closer to reality than most fiction. What Cole succeeds in doing with his emotional detachment and open-endedness is inspire all the more outrage and moral indignation from the reader. There is an audience for this profoundly moving story. Many young people have suffered as much as Linda or worse, and those who have not should know, too. VOYA Codes: 5Q 2P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature
Thirteenyearold Linda has just witnessed the murder of her lover by one of her mother's eXboyfriends. This book is her story, and it moves from her life now in a Catholic Center for children back to what she eXperienced in the previous thirteen years. Linda took care of her irresponsible mother, who went from job to job and boyfriend to boyfriend. Linda also took care of two younger siblings, being sure they were clean, fed, diapered, picked up from daycare, and not left alone in the house. The story is devoid of emotion, presenting just the facts. Even when Linda speaks of how she became involved with an older man it is without feeling, as if she is numb from the weight of her life. Teenage girls will see her resilience as she handles the responsibilities of an adult while she is still a child herself. Linda writes her story because she doesn't think the social worker will get it right and, in the writing, she slowly deals with what has happened in her life. 2000 (orig. 1997), Puffin Books, $16.95 and $5.99. Ages 14 to 17. Reviewer: Janet L. Rose <%ISBN%> 1886910146
Thirteen-year-old Linda witnesses a murder-suicide, and she tells of the events leading up to it and its effects. The violent deaths are described in the first chapter. The gunman was her mother's latest boyfriend; the other victim was Linda's own lover—a man old enough to be her father, who is also her mother's boss. The rest of the book relates Linda's troubled and difficult life, setting the scene for the deaths, and providing some kind of answer to the inevitable question: how this could happen? Frequent moves, poverty, her mother's alcoholism and abusiveness, and self-absorbed adults as her role models are but a few of the sad realities of Linda's life. Add to that the burden of caring for herself and two younger brothers, and the reader realizes something has to give. Linda winds up being sexually abused by two different men, one of whom has an ongoing relationship with her. Linda speaks in an almost emotionless tone, relating the facts almost as if she is watching them as an outsider. This detachment may distance some readers, but the story itself is engrossing. Linda is very troubled, but her life has given her an edge that conceals an inner strength. Removed from her home after the deaths, she finally is allowed to grow and learn in a safe and supportive environment. The reader is left with many questions—why didn't an adult step in, why was no one alerted to her odd behaviors? Somehow, though, Linda lets us know that with a little time and help from caring adults, she will be okay. Recommended, but librarians should be aware of sexual content, mature language, and violence. Honored as a Best Book in 1997 by three major journals and The New York Times. KLIATTCodes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1997, Penguin/Puffin, 184p, 18cm, 99-27766, $5.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Cathy Gallagher Nuding; Freeport, NY, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up--In this impeccably crafted novel, a 13 year old describes the sordid entanglements of the adults in her life that resulted in a murder-suicide. Unsettling, even horrifying, yet totally believable. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
A brilliantly crafted, shocking account, narrated by a teenager, of her mother's chronic incompetence and her own sexual abuse; it will slice readers to the bone less for its tragic details than for the casual, ingenuous tone in which they are revealed.

In an indignant response to a social worker's unflattering report, Linda, 13, describes how, after the death of her father, she cared for first one, and then two, brothers as her mother took up with a succession of men, abandoned her for months to a senile widower, and found a job at last, working for a married businessman, Jack Green, who ultimately seduced Linda. Rejecting the social worker's contention that she was raped, Linda claims to have felt only mild impatience with Green the first time, and her childish pleasure at his gifts and toys is clear. She admits to no strong feelings even after Green is murdered, although her sometimes violent actions contradict her reasonable tone; hints that some of her "facts" may be imaginary only deepen the contrast. Readers may admire Linda for maintaining even an illusion of control, but will also see that she has inherited her mother's bad judgment, and that neither her story nor her promises can be trusted—a recipe for a troubled future. A raw, powerful character study of someone trying to construct a particular version of reality, and failing, because the "facts" tell a different story. Cole shows real literary chops in a book whose aesthetic merits outrun, by far, the ethics police.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.36(w) x 7.18(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Brock Cole is the author of two School Library Journal Best Books of the Year and has received numerous other awards and citations. He lives in Buffalo, New York.

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