Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published by: Delacorte Press on April 5th, 2016
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?
SPOILER-FREE REVIEW AHEAD
After having been on a fantasy and sci fi binge lately, Tell Me Three Things was the first contemporary I read in quite some time. And while I was originally very excited for it, I ended up being let down. This is not, by any means, a bad book. I just think that it could have been a lot better.
Tell Me Three Things follows the story of Jessie, a sixteen-year-old girl who, two years after her mother dies, is forced to move from Chicago to Los Angeles so her and her father can live with his new wife. At her new school, Wood Valley, she begins to receive anonymous messages from someone who calls himself SN. SN and Jessie quickly begin to rely on each other, talking to each other everyday, and they even start to like each other.
I feel like some elements of this book were done really well. I found Jessie’s grief to be very well written and authentic, and I think that’s because the author actually lost her mother herself at the age of fourteen, so she was able to make things as realistic as possible for Jessie. Her stepbrother, Theo, was nice, and I liked the LGBT representation, but I feel like there was no closure at all with her stepmother, Rachel. Jessie started out the book resenting Rachel, and even when we find out that she isn’t so bad, her relationship with her is never really fully addressed in a positive manner.
To me, SN’s identity was so obvious right from the start, and I was honestly surprised that Jessie wasn’t able to figure it out sooner. I did like her friends, Dri and Agnes, though, and I also liked her friendship with Scarlet. Even though they had issues at times, I was really happy to see them patch things up, because strong female friendships are so important, especially in high school.
The one thing that really bothered me about this book was Ethan. He’s Jessie’s English partner who she develops a crush on, but he was probably one of the most unrealistic characters I’ve ever read. He’s a 16-year-old boy, but he quotes poetry, doesn’t acknowledge any girls but Jessie despite him being “the hottest guy in the school”, and he uses pretentious words that no high schooler would ever be caught dead using. I am 16 myself. I go to school with 16-year-old boys, and I can tell you that it is not how they act at all. I know romantic interests aren’t always realistic in YA, but this was just too much for me. I was literally cringing every scene he was in.
I also hated the love triangle, which I thought was super weird and unnecessary, and also had no closure. Somehow, the most popular boy in the school, Liam, also happens to be into Jessie, and he’s constantly talking to her and flirting with her. So, new girl who describes herself as a loser and says she isn’t even that pretty, has 2 hot guys who want to be with her. And both guys are the complete opposite of real 16-year-old boys. Yeah, sure.
I’m still not sure if I liked Jessie’s character or not. She’s your typical YA contemporary heroine: smart, but not nerdy; beautiful, but she doesn’t know it; shy, but witty. Let’s just say that it got old real fast. When she was around Liam and Ethan, I really didn’t like her, but when she was with her friends, I found her to be a lot more interesting and likable. So I guess this is the first time where I could see a YA book working a lot better without romance, and that says a lot coming from me, a die-hard romance fan.
All in all, Tell Me Three Things was an okay read. I’m mainly a fantasy person, and I don’t read as much contemporary as I used to, so when I do, I really have high expectations, and unfortunately, this book did not live up to it. However, if you like cute contemporary reads that don’t take themselves too seriously, then I think you will enjoy this book.
That’s it for my review! Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll see you next time 🙂