Book Review: Tell Me Three Things

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After moving from Chicago to L.A. when her dad gets remarried, Jessie gets an anonymous email on the first day of school from someone claiming to be her Wood Valley High spirit guide. After deciding (mostly) that it’s not just an elaborate hoax, Jessie and her anonymous emailer (calling himself Somebody Nobody, or SN for short) develop a bond, and Jessie becomes obsessed with discovering his identity. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Spoilers.

First, absolutely nothing happened in this book. Jessie whined and cried, we think she’s learning something, then she whines and cries again.

Second, Jessie is quite possibly the dumbest character I’ve ever read. Like, unforgivable levels of oblivious, self-absorbed, and just straight-up unintelligent.

Okay, so this book started out pretty strong. It was well-written, SN seemed like a clever and likable character (he continued to be that–the only beacon of light in the idiocy that was Jessie), and some of their back and forth was legitimately funny.

Then, you know, it wasn’t.

I figured out that SN was Ethan about a quarter of the way into the book, maybe sooner. It was confirmed about halfway through the book. Jessie doesn’t figure it out until about three pages from the end. No one else had an even remotely similar way of speaking or thinking about things. Which, you know, fine. I get that if you get something into your head, you can ignore things. But on the day that she notices Ethan leaving for lunch, SN tells her he went home for lunch. AND SHE DOESN’T GET IT. The book is entirely from Jessie’s point of view. If I, who wasn’t living her life, figured it out, for goodness’ sake she should have. And she claimed to have been at the top of her class in Chicago. One of her teachers calls her the brightest in the class. Yeah, not really getting that.

Further, all the “mean girls” were skinny and blonde, and, of course, the nice ones were fat with awkward-colored hair. And everyone collectively knew the blondes were bitches except for like three people? Is everyone at this school just stupidly oblivious? Is there something in the water?

Jessie continues her teenage idiocy with the whole “stepmonster” talk and her unwillingness to talk to anyone just because they exist. I suppose I’ve never been in her shoes, but I am so incredibly over the no-one-understands-me-so-I’m-just-going-to-be-a-bitch-regardless-that-no-one-has-ever-been-anything-but-nice-to-me attitude. I get that it’s a teenager thing, I do, but oh my gosh it needs to stop.

Theo I liked, though. Theo dealt with things a hell of a lot better than Jessie, despite the fact that we were repeatedly told that he was the weird, unstable one.

But I think the main problem with this book comes from the fact that it’s possibly one of the most self-indulgent books I’ve ever read. The entire book was the author crying about her teenage years with a dead mother and being fat and awkward and good at nothing but English under the guise of fiction. Ethan, I’m sure, was what she wished she had, which was why he wasn’t a character so much as an amalgamation of teenage fantasies stuffed into a Batman shirt.

Scarlett was an excuse for the author to give her views on sex, Dri existed only so that Jessie could have the potential for character development (which never happened), and Liam/Caleb/every other boy who looked and sounded exactly the same were to confuse poor Jessie’s few wits.

I can’t help but compare this to Alex, Approximately, which was the last book I read. Also YA romance, also girl living with dad, also weird anonymous online relationship. They were equally predictable, but Alex, Approximately was, you know, supposed to be. And there was an arc. Things happened. Bailey didn’t just whine the entire time. Maybe I just don’t have any patience for self-pitying, useless whiners. But goodness.

This book was a well-written, poorly executed excuse for the author to finally air her teenage frustrations. I had such high expectations from the good beginning. Character development, plot, for it not to be as predictable as it seemed… Nothing panned out.

Plot: 3/10 The anonymous thing was interesting for about forty pages.

Writing: 7/10 The prose was good, the dialogue was witty, and it flowed well.

Characters: 3/10 Jessie was the worst. Ethan was interesting, but not actually a character. Theo was cool. I liked Theo.

Interest: 2/10 I finished it. That’s about all it has going for it. So predictable and disappointing.

Overall: 3/10

Points for cover design, though.

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