Sunday, February 23, 2020

Book Review: "Tell Me Three Things" by Julie Buxbaum

If only we could say the things we most need and want to, to those who most need to hear it.

"...I will continue to power through it—all the stagnant, soul-crushing grief—but it will never be okay that my mom is not here. That she will not be at my high school graduation; that she will never give me the lecture, and I won't be able to play along and pretend to be embarrassed and say, Come on, Mom; that she will not be there when I open my college acceptance letters (or rejections); that she will never see who I grow up to be—that great mystery of who I am and who I am meant to be—finally asked and answered. I will march forth into the great unknown alone."

In Tell Me Three Things, Jessie’s life has been totally uprooted. Her mom died, her dad has gotten remarried to a woman he met online, and has moved them from Chicago into her fancy Los Angeles home with her sullen, disapproving son. And perhaps worse than that, she has to start her junior year at a private high school where everyone is rich and confident and looks like a model.

On her first day of school already in the midst of embarrassing disaster after embarrassing disaster, insult after insult, she gets an email from someone calling themselves “Somebody Nobody,” or “SN.” They claim to be a fellow student and offer to help Jessie navigate the wilds of the high school, anonymously of course.

Little by little, Jessie starts to depend on SN, like him even, but she’s desperate to know who he is. She's finding it difficult to build her own life in California without him. And as she deals with bullying and self-confidence crises and unwanted attention from a friend and issues with her dad and the new life he’s dropped her in, she wants SN in real life more than ever, even as she’s fighting her IRL attraction to a classmate.

This is a sweet book with a lot of poignancy, and as with many YA novels, the characters are funny and far more erudite than typical teens. Julie Buxbaum knows how to tug at your emotions without getting maudlin. (Her latest book, Hope and Other Punchlines, really blew me away.)

I pretty much predicted how this would resolve itself early on, and while I wasn’t disappointed with that resolution, I thought it took a little too long for the payoff. But the book was still fun and a quick read.

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