Paperback: 352 pages
Publication Date: Reprint Edition (March 14, 2017)
“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?”
I kind of bought this book on a whim during the Festival of Books, and after reading the blurb, I was really excited to see how this story would play out. After finishing, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
While I can personally relate to the feeling of loss and grief that Jessie was experiencing, I had a bit of a hard time connecting to Jessie. And maybe I’m projecting my own emotions onto her, but I felt that Jessie needed more of a voice. I understood her quiet and awkward nature (because that is me), but also I wanted her to speak up, to lash out, to be fragile and volatile, and to maybe even have a meltdown. None of these things really happened to the extent I was expecting, and so it felt like too many things were ignored and left unsaid by the end.
In many ways, the characters felt flat and generic. To me, they were cardboard cutouts of YA caricatures we’ve seen and read before. Both Liam and Caleb were not very memorable as male interests. Ethan had the most personality of them all, but only because he was given the most page time. I liked Jessie and Ethan’s interactions, but I felt she had more chemistry with a virtual personality than with any “real life” person. In my opinion, the identity of SN was far too predictable. All but one male interest weren’t given the opportunity to establish a connection to Jessie, and so it became a process of elimination.
My biggest qualm with this book, however, lies with the abundance of YA high school clichés. The “new girl at a rich high school where she obviously doesn’t fit in” trope mixed with the “guys fall for the new girl” and the “mean girls bully the new girl” clichés were taken to the extreme. The story is wholly unoriginal in this capacity. And the LA/California stereotypes were played up more than necessary.
In the long run, I thought Tell Me Three Things was an enjoyable read. It contains quite a number of elements that appealed to me, such as the inclusion of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (a favorite of mine), pop culture references, and mixed media (although primarily email and IMing). I also appreciated the cute romance between SN and Jessie. Over email, their relationship had that signature witty banter that can be found in many YA contemporaries nowadays, though I would argue that it was not as engaging as most conversations I’ve seen. The “Tell Me Three Things” game they began to play midways through was, by far, the highlight of their dialogue and the sweetest part of their relationship.
It’s certainly not a favorite of mine, but it is a cute little YA contemporary to pass the time.