Reviewed: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum


Let’s be honest, as much as I’d like to live in a world that is cover-blind, the harsh reality is that my desire to pick a book up increases when cute packaging is involved. (Incidentally, this is also why I consistently leave Target with items that I don’t actually need.)

Even before the book released, I saw ads for Tell Me Three Things everywhere and each time I made a mental note* to put it on my Goodreads “To Read” shelf. And because my reading stack has grown to a height that…shall we say…is no longer structurally sound, I needed an excuse to pick it up right away. The only way forward? A sneaky book club move. I suggested it for our next gathering and smugly moved it to the top of my pile.

But before we get too far, here’s a quick synopsis (if you’re into that kind of thing).

TellMeThreeThings_QuoteAbout the Book:

What do you do when your dad decides that dragging you across the country and inserting you into a different high school ecosystem is the best plan of action? You cautiously accept the friendship of the anonymous guy who promises to help you understand the preppy landscape of foreign-ness that is a Los Angeles private school, of course. 

Still reeling from the loss of her mother and the challenge of navigating a newly combined family unit, Jessie gets an email from SN (Somebody Nobody). Homesick and desperately trying to make her way in this new world, Jessie takes a leap of faith and accepts his help. Amongst advice about the best way to interact with her new classmates, they begin to build a solid friendship by exchanging answers to the prompt: tell me three things…

But who is SN? And will an in-person meeting make their friendship stronger or destroy it altogether?

Let me tell you three reasons why I loved this book (because that seems the appropriate thing to do):

(1.) It reminded me of Ann Brashares’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Just like the Sisterhood books, this book was deeply grounded. Far from a frivolous teen book, the issues Jessie deals with: the death of her mother, tentatively forging the bonds of new friendships, adapting to a different school, trying to assimilate into a family that doesn’t feel quite right, and processing through the tangle of emotions that all these things realistically require of her…well, let’s just say that I shed a few tears. Okay, maybe one-fourth of a tissue box’s worth of tears.

(2.) It delivers on the premise. Much like Meg Cabot before her, the author is amazingly skilled at using the email/IM plot device to move the story forward. There was just enough light-hearted banter and high school shenanigans to keep the balance of a good YA novel. The highest praise I can offer is that I never felt like the book was heavy-handed or trying too hard. In fact, I found myself smiling like an idiot in public places while reading. Now I need to do some serious damage control to re-establish my street cred.

(3.) It’s well-written. That might sound like a simple compliment, but I think this book was brilliantly paced, expertly woven together, and insightful as heck. I never use a highlighter in fiction books, but I found myself marking a few lines along the way.

“How strange, I think, to be called both ugly and beautiful, two words I rarely hear, in the same day. The former because most people are neither that mean nor that truthful, the latter because it has never applied to me…Hot seems to be about guys liking you. Beautiful is about liking how you look.”

“My mom will not be there to nurse me back from this. There is no longer a person in the world who is interested in everything I have to say just by virtue of the fact that it comes out of my mouth.”

“When my mom died, Scarlett and I sat on my bed, and before she started the full-time job of distracting me from the pain–which she performed admirably and with such skill I never even noticed how much work she must have put into it–she said the only thing that made sense at the time, maybe the only thing that has made any sense since: Just so you know, I realize that what happened is not in any way okay, but I think we’re going to have to pretend like it is.”

Bottom line: I don’t need to tell you three things – if you’re looking for a book to break a reading slump and love a good YA coming of age story (with a really cute cover), I have one single piece of advice: get your hands on this book and read it. Posthaste.


*The sad reality is that my mental notes are a lot like those cute sticky notes that you can buy in the dollar section at Target – they have more style than substance.


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