STU TRULY by Dan Richards is the kind of pleasant book that many readers will enjoy. Stu’s biggest problem is how his middle school friends (and Stu himself) seem to be discovering an interest in girls all at once. When Becca, an interesting new girl at school, declares herself to be a vegetarian, Stu unthinkingly tells her he’s one as well, even though his family owns the butcher shop in town and he loves meat. (This isn't much of a spoiler; the book cover features Stu dressed up like a rack of ribs.) I started off thinking the contrast between these two perspectives and how they’re approached makes the book an interesting classroom read aloud possibility, maybe during a nutrition unit. Soon that part of the story takes something of a backseat to the escalating middle school boy/girl drama, though it continues as a plot driver throughout.
The premise hinges on a lie told in the beginning by Stu, which ultimately feels out of place since he doesn’t come across as a habitual liar during the rest of the book. The carnivore vs. vegetarian plot gets the characters interacting, and it’s fun watching all of their relationships change as the school year continues. There are a good number of minor characters here, which requires the reader to pay attention to what is going on and who is doing what. The story doesn’t do much to break any long-held gender stereotypes, and even has a few moments when it subtly reinforces some — Stu and his friends occasionally say doing something “like a little girl” as a joking insult, which reads as dated considering the target audience.
STU TRULY will fit with middle grade books featuring fast-talking, comedic narrators trying to charm their way out of their problems. Usually this is something that doesn’t do much for me personally, but Dan Richards frequently pulls it off with some genuinely funny lines that don’t always rely on overused tropes.