Avi's YA novel Nothing But the Truth focuses on the consequences that unfurl after ninth grader Philip Malloy lies to his father by telling him that he was suspended from school for singing the National Anthem. In reality, Philip was suspended by the Vice Principal for his disrespectful behavior toward Mrs. Narwin, his English teacher, and his insistence upon humming the National Anthem when he has been asked to stand quietly and attentively.
This seemingly "little" lie initiates a chain of reactions that blow the situation out of proportion. Philip is interviewed by a journalist who then writes an article which attracts national attention and causes Philip to be praised for his patriotism. As a result, Philip's school is under fire for allegedly thwarting Philip's "patriotism," and Mrs. Narwin is forced to take a "break" from teaching which ultimately results in her resignation. Philip's school loses the funding they so desperately need, and the tide of public opinion begins to turn against him—at least in the attitudes of his peers, who resent how dramatically his lie has impacted their lives. In an effort to protect her son, Philip's mother chooses to transfer him to a different school.
In the closing chapter of this drama, Philip arrives at this new school, Washington Academy, where he is brought to Miss Rooney's home room. Miss Rooney introduces Philip to the class and explains that they normally begin the day by singing the national anthem. "Maybe you'd like to lead us in that?" Miss Rooney asks. Philip begins to cry, and when Miss Rooney asks why, Philip explains, "I don't know the words."
Whether these tears are born of some sense of shame or guilt over the chaos he has catalyzed or whether these tears are simply a matter of embarrassment is unknown. Either way, the damage is done, and Philip is outed as a liar to the watching room of his new peers...and to, inevitably, the rest of the curious nation, as well.