Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. 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?
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.
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?
What I Liked:
I took a chance with this book; I'm not a YA contemporary person, and I knew that the romance in this book could go in several different directions. Obviously we all want her to end up with her secret emailing admirer (even without reading the book, you're rooting for him!), but we also know that the person emailing her might not be someone she likes away from the screen. So, I was worried about a love triangle or something of the sort. I am very happy to report that there was a very linear romance, and the story was beautiful and heart-wrenching and lovely!
Jessie's mother died two years ago. Her father remarried, and now she and her dad are living in L.A. with his new (rich) wife Rachel, and Rachel's son Theo. Rachel is paying for Jessie to attend a very fancy and preppy private school, Wood Valley High School. Jessie's first week is a disaster, and most people noticed - specifically, an anonymous person referred to as Somebody/Nobody, who emails Jessie, encouraging her and telling her details about Wood Valley High. Jessie is wary at first, but finds herself chatting online with SN more and more. She wants to meet her peer, who knows who she is, and has been a friend throughout the rough transition. But what if the person behind the screen isn't someone she likes in real life?
This book was absolutely stunning, inside and out. Can we just talk about the cover for a second? I thought it was interesting, when I first saw it, and that was one of the reasons why I accepted the book for review. But now that I've read the book, I can appreciate the cover even more. "Waffle" is Jessie's favorite word, and it has another significance in the book (several, actually). Love!
Oh Jessie. Her pain and anger and frustration and numbness felt so real and tragic. I could see myself reacting exactly as she did, in terms of the big move, her father ignoring her feelings, her new stepmother, her new stepbrother, her new school. I love Jessie so much - she is someone to whom I can relate, someone real, someone likable. Even if you aren't entirely like her, you can relate to her on some level. Jessie is down-to-earth (especially compared to these snobs in Wood Valley High), intelligent, determined, hard-working, smart with money, humble... someone that I would be friends with, in real life.
I LOVE how real all of Buxbaum's characters seemed to me! Wood Valley High is very different from my high school, yet the high school experience is (for the most part) is at least similarly and generally understood by most. This high school is filled with rich snobs, with perfect hair, model good looks, weird organic food... I've never been to L.A., but I can stretch my imagination and believe it.
Anyway, secondary characters. Jessie's new friends Dri and Agnes are so sweet. Agnes is a little strange at first, but I liked her. Theo, Jessie's stepbrother, seems like a tool at first, but I warmed up to him quickly. He's actually a nice guy (though I still refuse to think of him as a "decent" guy).
We have our potential SN guys: Caleb, a rando who doesn't really play a big role throughout the book, but is very convincingly like SN. Liam, a senior, who plays a larger role in the book, and has been nice to Jessie from the start. And Ethan, Jessie's English partner for a project, who is good-looking but also a bit cold. Distant? He plays a huge role in the book, especially as Jessie's partner for the English project.
I'll just say it - there is no love triangle. Or square. Or pentagon, pyramid, rhombus, whatever. No geometry whatsoever, except for a straight line. The romance in this book is VERY linear. I love the romance, honestly. Jessie falls for this certain guy in real life, and she also develops a strong connection to SN. Whoever is behind the screen is someone that understands and cares about her, and by the climax of the book, Jessie is convinced that it's one of those three boys. I really like how the romance turned out. TRUST ME when I say that there is no love triangle. There is emotional and physical interaction only with one guy... the right guy. *wink*
So that's the romance. And I mentioned the characters. I also loved the "tough-issue" story, how heartbreaking and inspiring the story is. Loving a parent, and then the other (to a stepmother), moving cross-country, starting over in a school filled with people that look down on you... nothing comes easy, for Jessie. I love her strength of character, and how she grows as the story continues. This book isn't so gritty and difficult to read that a non-contemporary person like me would stop reading. No, this book was beautiful and achingly sweet to read.
I am so pleased with this book. The story is incredible, the heroine is so strong and inspiring, and the romance is really sweet, without having any physical intimacy (which is so great, in its own way). I kind of love how Jessie is able to connect with someone so powerfully, in this age of technology and behind-the screen interactions. I really adored this book!
What I Did Not Like:
I know I just said how I loved that this book had no physical intimacy in it (like the only kiss comes at the very end, in the "reveal" scene). BUT I also personally find this to be a negative because I looove physical interactions in a book that has such a great romance in it! However I can see how that wouldn't really fit, in this book. But still.
Would I Recommend It:
I so recommend this book! I'm not even a YA contemporary person, and I'm recommending it. Have you seen the amount of positive reviews on Goodreads? This book is so worth the buzz that has been floating around. Give it a chance! I tend to stay far away from YA contemporary - especially those dealing with "tough issues", but this book was really worth the read.
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars (I'm not really sure why I'm rounding down, but it doesn't quite feeling like a five-star read to me). Such a wonderful book, and a fast read, too! I'm glad I took a chance on this one.
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Interview with Julie Buxbaum:
Alyssa: Hi Julie! Thank you so much for joining me today on my blog! And congratulations on the upcoming publication of your YA debut!
Julie: Thank you so much for having me here and for the congrats! I’m super excited about this book and joining the YA community.
Alyssa: How was writing this novel different from writing your other (non-YA) novels?
Julie: Honestly, the experience of the actual writing of this book wasn’t all that different than with my previous novels, other than the fact that this time my main character is sixteen. I think teenagers these days are incredibly sophisticated readers and so I felt no need to adjust my writing level. I did spend a lot of time honing Jessie’s voice and making sure it sounded authentic, but I do the same thing with my older characters too.
Alyssa: Did any personal experiences affect or influence this book, specifically or generally?
Julie: Yeah, this turned out to be a deeply personal book for me. The idea originally came from the fact that I once received an anonymous email which ended up having an unexpectedly profound impact on my life. But even more than that, I, like Jessie, lost my mom young (at fourteen) and that experience more than anything else shaped who I am as a person and I have to admit a lot of those feelings got poured into this book. I’m not Jessie, but I definitely understand and empathize so much with her experience with mother loss.
Alyssa: That is so interesting, about the email! Really touching. :) How about this cover – do you think it fits the book well?
Julie: Covers are so tricky, but I like this one. But maybe it’s because I happen to really, really love waffles...
Alyssa: Now that I've read the book... I have an even bigger appreciation for the cover. ;D If you could recommend one YA contemporary novel that readers might enjoy if they like this book? How about the reverse – if readers enjoy _____ novel, they’ll enjoy TELL ME THREE THINGS?
Julie: I don’t know if this is a comp to TELL ME THREE THINGS, but I recently read and loved Courtney Sheinmel’s EDGEWATER, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As for the reverse, I think if people like SIMON vs. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, they’ll hopefully also enjoy TELL ME THREE THINGS.
Alyssa: Julie, thank you again for taking this time to talk about your book! Best of luck with the final months to come. :)
Julie: Thank you and thanks so much again for hosting me here! I really appreciate it!
Check out a swoony excerpt!
(Click on the graphic!)