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Tell Me Three Things Hardcover – April 5, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—A contemporary YA novel about grieving, growing up, and learning how to have confidence in yourself. Saying Jessie's new life is weird would be an understatement—after she loses her mother to cancer, her dad sells their house, moves them across the country to live with the woman he eloped with during a business trip, and enrolls her in an elite private school where everyone makes her feel even more like an outsider. Back home Jessie was comfortable: she had both her parents, a house she loved, and friends. Here she feels lost in a sea of designer clothing, expensive cars, and people who spend their summer vacations in faraway countries. When the teen gets an anonymous email from Somebody/Nobody offering to teach her to navigate this new school's territory, she registers how strange the situation may be but replies anyway. Who is this mysterious Somebody/Nobody (SN for short)? Will trusting SN lead to success—or make her even more of a target for bullies? Readers will find themselves growing with Jessie as she tries to deal with the passing of her mother and become comfortable in her own skin miles away from everything she thought of as home. Buxbaum's debut is hard to put down because of its smooth and captivating text. The addition of virtual conversations through email and chatting adds an exciting plot twist. Casual talk of drinking, drugs, and sex makes this novel more appealing to mature teens. VERDICT A definite purchase for collections where readers enjoy character-driven fiction.—DeHanza Kwong, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC
"Three Things about this novel: 1. I loved it. 2. No, really, I LOVED it. 3. I wish I could tell every teen to read it. Buxbaum's book sounds, reads, breathes, worries, and soars like real adolescents do." - Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of LEAVING TIME and OFF THE PAGE.
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What called me to Tell Me Three Things was the fact that, yes, it's sure to be a cute and fluffy contemporary that's sure to hit the spot. But it also just happens to have a premise with major You've Got Mail elements, and if that's not compelling then I don't know what is. So when the eBook was on super sale I snatched it up, and not too much time later I picked the book (well, my Kindle) up and decided to see if it was as sweet and delicious as three heart-shaped waffles. And it kinda was.
Tell Me Three Things immediately pulled me in--and I mean pulled me in--from page one, which starts right off with Jessie's emails and introduction to Somebody/Nobody, aka SN. SN knows who Jessie is--he or she did, in fact, email her--but Jessie hasn't the faintest clue who SN is, except that he or she goes to her school and can tell that she's lost--and wants to help her find her way. What ensues is a series of correspondences between Jessie and SN that are sweet and funny and honest and utter perfection, and if I'm being completely honest? I would and could read an entire book that's composed entirely of their messages.
But somewhere along the way that great beginning started to wane off. The messages were still present, but the rest of the story wasn't quite as interesting and didn't do as well with piquing my interest. Jessie (unwillingly) moves to California after her widowed father marries another widow, and Jessie gains a rather unexpected new stepmother, stepbrother, and finds herself living in a whole new world. With the exception of SN--whose identity we are kept guessing at (and I was right, thank gosh)--the majority of the secondary characters felt a little flat. They needed just a bit more dimension to really be there and have presence and feel real. (For example, there's a potential love interest and a best friend who just didn't do much for me and they probably should have. There was one particular character who floated my boat, aside from SN. But I won't tell you who, except that he wears like the same thing every day.) I wouldn't say it's a bad thing that the messages were my favorite part, but it's not necessarily a good thing that few things were as interesting.
The real and actual best part of Tell Me Three Things was the ending, which was one of the cutest and most adorable endings ever. I loved and adored it. I just wish everything in this book was on the same cute and fun and sweet level, because instead I'm left with like one really good homemade waffle and a couple frozen waffles that are just okay. I needed parts of the story and the characters to be less like outlines and to be filled in and given dimension so that they'd actually feel like bigger parts of the book. But those messages and that ending and that ship. Ah. So waffle-ful.
From the very first chapter, where Jessie marks time by how long it's been since her mom died and she receives an email from "Somebody Nobody" (SN), I was captivated by the story. Much of it is told in emails, texts, and instant messages, which, let's be honest, is how many of us communicate with our friends. This is a story telling device that I really enjoy, though I know it does drive some readers crazy.
As I read, I cared so much for Jessie. I wanted her to make friends. I wanted her to get the job she wanted. I wanted her to connect with her new stepbrother and stepmother. I wanted her to tell off mean girl Gem. And I wanted to scream at her, "______ is SN!!!"
That's really where my only complaint about the novel comes in: while ostensibly three guys at Jessie's school could be SN, only one of them makes any sense. And she. does. not. see. it. While I wish that at least one of the other candidates would have been remotely plausible, the big reveal at the end is done in such a way that I can almost forgive Jessie's obliviousness.
Overall, this is a really cute story that also deftly deals with serious issues like the death of a parent and bullying. I basically loved every minute I spent reading it! 4-1/2 stars.
Content note: Tell Me Three Things does contain a fair bit of swearing, some crass humor, and talk of sex (never graphic). There's also some teenage drinking (Jessie gets drunk on a couple of occasions, and her stepmother gives her a glass of wine) and marijuana use. It's not a book that I would give to the teens in my life, but I think it's fine for adults.
So this is actually the first contemporary novel that I listened to as an audiobook because I’m not built for audiobooks but I really really enjoyed listening. And then just a few days earlier, this book went on sale on Amazon so I had to buy it and reread. I’m sure when the time comes, I’ll be buying a hard copy to reread it over again because it’s definitely one of my favorite contemporaries to date.
Jessie is the new girl in school. She transferred from Chicago to California with her father to live with her stepmom, Rachel, and stepbrother, Theo. And then, during her first week at school, she received an email from Somebody Nobody (or SN) offering help in navigating Wood Valley High.
I really love Jessie’s character because she’s so genuine. She’s frustrating at times and naive but at the same time, adorable and smart which made her character arc stand out. She loves books too!
I also enjoyed the other characters like Theo, I just wish we had more Theo in the book. Agnes and Dri too! They’re Jessie’s friends in her new school. Scarlett was Jessie’s best friend back from Chicago and I really loved their funny banter and sweet conversations from time to time. Especially during that time when Jessie went back to Chicago to visit and they had this conflict resolved, it was such a step-up.
Of course, the contenders as to whom SN might be. Liam, Caleb, or Ethan. I quite enjoyed all three of them, each to their own personalities. Liam and Ethan are both musicians and from the same band. Caleb and Liam are close friends, so it was sort of implied that there might be a geometry with love here somewhere but actually there wasn’t. And I’m glad that SN turned out to be who I wanted it to be, although at first, I wasn’t really sure if it was going to be him. The mystery of SN’s true identity was really exciting, especially when it all went down to the moment of truth, where Jessie found out who SN really was. It was super fun to read, and more fun to hear because the emotions were really genuine! Mad props to Jorjeana Marie for her wonderful narration!
Another thing I enjoyed about this book was not only it celebrated love, it also dealt with friendships, families, and of course grief. Moving on is such an easy concept but it’s definitely hard to do. This concept made the whole book so damn relatable.
This book just hit the homerun with me. It’s utterly impossible not to feel and just explode with emotions with this book. It’s just so real and genuine and the author didn’t even really try. Julie Buxbaum just managed to capture it perfectly. With that said, I’m really looking forward to her future books!