Nothing but the Truth: A Documentary Novel

by Avi
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In Nothing but the Truth by Avi, what kind of student is Philip?

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Phillip Malloy is pretty much a nightmare student for any teacher. Constitutionally lazy and forever goofing-off in class, he's virtually unteachable. It's not so much that he's lacking in intelligence, as it is that he's not prepared to use it in his academic studies. Philip's almost the epitome of a high school jock, and his main focus in life is the track team.

But it's not enough that Philip neglects his own studies; he has to disrupt other students' learning too. His constant humming of "The Star-Spangled Banner" leads to a showdown with Mrs. Narwin, which ultimately generates something of a media storm. Philip falsely accuses Mrs. Narwin of preventing him from singing the national anthem, and the ensuing negative publicity forces her to take a reluctant sabbatical.

What this whole sorry episode illustrates is the way that Philip's always prepared to put his own selfish needs before every one else's, both fellow students and teachers alike. He doesn't take his studies seriously, so why should anyone else be allowed to? This flippant attitude to life and learning is what makes him such a bad student more than anything else.

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In Nothing But the Truth by Avi, Philip Malloy is basically a lazy student. He thinks he should be able to get by in school with his charm and sense of humor. He doesn't like the fact that Ms. Narwin expects him to actually read assigned books and to put forth some effort on exams. When he takes a test over Jack London's Call of the Wild, it is clear he has not taken the time to read the book. Yet, he thinks Ms. Narwin should give him credit for his silly answers. He blames her lack of a sense of humor for his poor grade on the test and for his low grades in general in her class. Philip refuses to take responsibility for his own laziness. 

"Got my term grades. Math, an A. Awesome wicked. B- in biology. That's OK too. And I got a C in history, which is cool. All of that stuff is dead anyway. A straight B in health. But then I got a D in English!!! Narwin is so dumb she didn't get the joke" (Avi 18)

Philip's attitude toward Ms. Narwin affects his performance in her class, and he ends up not only hurting her, but also hurting himself.

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