“Over email and text, though, I am given those few additional beats I need to be the better, edited version of myself.”
Jessie doesn’t want to live in California. She doesn’t want a new stepmother when her mother’s death two years earlier is still painfully fresh. She can definitely do without her snobby new stepbrother. She hates leaving her best friend behind in Chicago and wishes her dad would try to understand why she’s so upset.
Her new super fancy prep school in Los Angeles is filled with pretentious students, confusion, and very few potential friends. When she receives an email from someone, Somebody/Nobody to be more specific, offering to help her make sense of her perplexing new life Jessie isn’t sure what to think. Is his offer a genuine chance to get some help? Could it be an elaborate prank?
The potential of a new friend and some much-needed information win out. The more Jessie and SN email and text, the more she wants to meet him in person. But as she gets closer to discovering SN’s identity, Jessie also wonders if some mysteries should remain unsolved in Tell Me Three Things (2016) by Julie Buxbaum.
Jessie feels like a stranger in a very strange land when she is thrust into a higher income bracket at her predominantly white private school. This relative privilege is addressed and handled well over the course of the novel while Jessie tries to reconcile her middle class sensibilities with the new luxuries she is starting to enjoy. Jessie’s online friendship with SN and her real life struggles to befriend her classmates serve as another contrast in this story where perception can change everything.
This novel also ruminates on the nature of grief and moving on as Jessie struggles to hold onto memories of her mother while watching her father start a shiny new life. The awkward and often frustrating dynamics of becoming a (reluctantly) blended family add depth to this already absorbing story.
Tell Me Three Things is filled with humor and wit as a sweet romance unfolds. Jessie’s narration features a singular voice with a unique perspective on her surroundings and her new classmates. She is self-aware enough to acknowledge her shortcomings in struggling to reconcile herself to her new step-family and home while also harboring a healthy dose of naiveté about other aspects of her life.
Buxbaum breathes new life into a familiar premise in Tell Me Three Things. Readers may be quicker to guess SN’s identity than Jessie but that journey, like the rest of Jessie’s story, is all the more satisfying for the serendipity and potential near-misses along the way. Highly recommended.
Possible Pairings: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre; The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando; Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira; Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett; Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake; A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody; To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han; Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu; Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake; Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo; The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert; The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder; The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz; Tweet Cute by Emma Lord; In Real Life by Jessica Love; An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi; Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills; I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson; Kissing in America by Margo Rabb; Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales; Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith; Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes; P. S. I Like You by Kasie West; Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia