Posted in Reviews

Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Good, not mind blowing. As the author says, more than just a dead mom book. Read this from 3:38am to 7:42am because I couldn’t sleep. Just call me Ethan.

Recommended: sure
For a quick cute read, for those who can suspend disbelief and pretend the world is a nice place, for a fairly predictable and straightforward story, for those who can tolerate a plot that sometimes makes you roll your eyes at the MCs ability to misinterpret obvious things

Yes, I read everything in the cover background.

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help? In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

The primary strength of this book was in the connections created between characters and the portrayal of grief from Jessie. She’s thrown into a crazy situation when around two years after her mother’s death, her father abruptly announces he’s remarried a rich LA lady, and they’re going to move out to California to live with her. Cue Jessie’s entrance into a creme de la creme private school for the rich and glamorous, as well as a bizzaro world of her new “family” in a house that’s more like a museum.

Jessie’s grief stays with her through the story, as a constant point of reflection and pain and growth for her. The author in a note at the end states that this is very personal for her, as she lost her own mother at 14. Because of that painful personal experience, the portrayal in the story of grief — Jessie’s, her father’s, and even her new stepmother & stepbrother’s — are consistent and painfully believable.

In tandem with the grief comes the connection with others despite it, and sometimes because of it. Jessie’s relationships with SN, her father, and her friend back home are well developed (even though SN is technically some anonymous blocks of text). Her competing anger and love toward her father give poignant insight into the painful realities of their dynamics after losing Jessie’s mother. The moment where Jessie discusses wishing it were her father and not her mother, then considers that her father might have had the same thought about her, is grim and heartbreaking for its honesty. I also deeply appreciated the conflict with her friend back home, and the way it was resolved for again feeling realistic and courageous on both character’s parts.

Now, the weak point here was unfortunately in the crux of the novel: the question of Who Is SN? This was pretty obvious from about 30-35% of the way through the story. The primary theory of his identity that Jessie pursues about midway through is so clearly wrong and such a glaring plot hole that it really affected my opinion of her. Who knew she was so dense? /sigh. I feel like it’s not even a spoiler if I pointed out the plot hole, because it should be clear to anyone who reads this, but I’ll forgo it just in case. It just ruffles my feathers quite a lot. Ugh.

Additionally, Liam was a weak addition. Everything with him felt like a poorly developed crutch to the story, and in the end it barely even mattered anyway. I was glad when the book was ended because at that point I was just kind of tired of the way the main plot of SN was going. When the answer is too obvious to the reader when it’s not supposed to be, it puts a damper on the ending. Overall, the answer is anticlimactic.


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

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