Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
It all began with an email from SN offering guidance to our heroine Jessie Holmes in navigating the jungle that is Wood Valley High School. SN claims that for Jessie this place and these people are all new, but since he has spent all his life there, he is an expert. Jessie is the new kid in town who brought with her some baggage. Her baggage is that she lost her mother to cancer and her father remarried and moved them to a strange new place without even consulting her feelings about it. So Jessie is grief-stricken, angry, lost and alone all at the same time. She is an easy target but the girl is also sensible. At first, Jessie brushed off SN’s offer because she is aware that SN might be someone who is not what he is telling himself to be. What if SN is a mean girl playing a practical joke on her? Or an old pervy man pretending to be a teenage boy? But life in WVHS is proving to be a real challenge and exchanging funny witty emails with a stranger is a good distraction, so Jessie reluctantly accepted SN’s help.
Jessie’s loneliness on losing her mom is palpable in her thoughts. She counts the days it has been since her mother passed. She sees something and that something will always find a way to remind Jessie of her dead mom. The book is generous in dishing out Jessie’s grief and pain but she is not altogether a bleak character. People around Jessie sees her as someone strong because of the way she carries herself but the truth is (we know this because we are the privileged readers) she just tries so hard not to show any signs of giving up. She said it herself: she refuses to be “the sad girl”. I think a lot of readers will love Jessie’s character. I know I love her. She also loves books. She is a feminist. She is nice and fiercely loyal to people she cares about: her mom and her friends.
At the heart of the book is the connection formed between Jessie and SN. Soon Jessie and SN switched to IM-ing and started this tell-me-three-things game where they tell each other three things about themselves daily. Jessie starts to fall for SN and wants to see him in person but SN thinks it’s not a good idea. One of the book’s main storyline is Jessie deducing who SN is, a la Sherlock. I love the fun and fluff style element of mystery here. Jessie is a smart girl so it has been a wild ride following her around in her quest for SN’s identity. She suspects everybody, even her slightly evil stepbrother Theo or her new Wood Valley friend, Adrianna. Eventually there were three gorgeous boys left in the suspects’ line up and you guys--THE CHASE, THE ROMANCE--I JUST CAN’T WITH SWOON. I deliberately threw away all my bad personal experiences with virtual relationships and got carried away with the feels this book gives. Aaah, I cannot contain myself! I want to spill everything I know about SN! My feet is doing these little kicks in the air right now!
And it’s so,so much more than just swoon and romance. Because I can relate on this too well, I like how the book explores a lot on the absurdity of virtual relationships: how your personality on screen is the filtered and edited version of yourself in person, how it’s sometimes easier to type and say things behind the screen, how sometimes you continue texting with a distant friend without knowing that your relationship is starting to fall apart. It also touched on our human need to be actually seen, especially teenagers. It’s great that not only did the book made Jessie acknowledge that she wants and deserves attention from her peers or from her dad, the other characters are also shown in this light, too: Theo, Adrianna, her bestfriend in Chicago Scarlett, even SN.
- absorbing teen romance with a dash of detective mystery
- explores virtual relationship which is timely with this day and age