Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah #BookReview #BlogTour



Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.

With the help of assault counsellor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it’s only the beginning…

Powerful, explosive and important, Truth Be Told is a contemporary courtroom drama that vividly captures today’s society. You will not stop thinking about it for a long time to come.

I am thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Truth Be Told today. Huge thanks to Kia Abdullah and HQ for inviting me and for my advance digital copy received through Netglley.

Kia Abdullah's second book, Truth Be Told once again features Zara Kaleel, a former barrister who now works as a counsellor at a crisis centre, supporting victims of sexual assault. It can be read as a standalone but there are several mentions of the case she worked on in the previous novel, Take It Back, including some spoilers so if you are considering reading both books then I would strongly advise you to do so in order.
Although rape is probably most often thought of as being perpetrated by a dangerous stranger, statistics show that most sexual assault victims know their attacker and that proving consent - or lack of  - is a contentious and difficult issue. It's no wonder that many victims don't report their attack and male victims are frequently even more reluctant to come forward but when seventeen year-old Kamran Hadid begins to piece together his fragmented, drink-fuelled memories of the previous night, he isn't able to just try to forget what happened and so goes to see Zara to report the incident. Several topics are explored in Truth Be Told but perhaps one of the most important is that of consent and how vital it is that people (perhaps especially young people) understand enthusiastic, continuous consent. The accused attacker isn't a devious sexual predator and while no sexual attack should ever be excused, the scenes that are written to give an insight into his feelings ensures it's impossible not to feel some sympathy for the boy who reacts with confusion and horror when he realises what he stands accused of. 
The first part of the novel follows events leading up to the alleged attack and the immediate aftermath, as Kamran has to decide how he wants to proceed. His elite all-boys school would prefer to keep the investigation within their control rather than it being dealt with in court; although they are arguably thinking more of the adverse publicity rather than Kamran's welfare, he faces a harrowing ordeal if he does go ahead with a legal prosecution and Kia Abdullah conveys his confused state of mind with perceptive empathy. The second half of the book is even more compelling and thought-provoking as it follows what happens in court and as the case hits the headlines, opinions are divided; the antagonistic demonstrations by men's rights groups are intimidating though not surprising but Zara is shocked to discover that even those with more liberal sensibilities still have doubts regarding continuous consent, especially when alcohol is involved.  
The repercussions of the night in question extend beyond the two boys of course and though Truth Be Told is a gripping courtroom drama, it is also a fascinating examination of identity and family. Societal prejudice faced by male victims of rape and the complexities of attitudes towards gay men in the Muslim community are addressed here with Kamran's experiences within his family juxtaposed by Zara's own issues as she confronts her Diazepam addiction at Narcotics Anonymous meetings. As an independent, strong-willed Asian woman her own actions have led to conflict in the past with the more devout members of her family and her father's terrible last words to her prior to his death continue to torment her. There are a number of men who behave badly in the book but it's too simplistic just to condemn them and this sensitively nuanced novel understands that society too often traps men across generations and cultures in an idealised, narrow view of masculinity.
The intense courtroom scenes are beautifully written, hard-hitting and emotional and although I believed throughout that Kamran was convinced that he had been raped, I was never sure what the outcome would be. This is not an easy book to read and there are some truly heart-rending scenes but my goodness, Kia Abdullah knows how to write characters and stories that stay with you long after you finish the last page. Truth Be Told is an exceptionally good novel and deserves every plaudit that will surely come its way. Very highly recommended. 

Truth Be Told is published by HQ, purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookstores whenever possible.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Her follow-up novel, Truth Be Told, is out in September 2020 (HQ/HarperCollins).

Kia has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a non-profit organisation that advocates for diversity in publishing.