Honestly I only picked this up because it was immediately available from my library – I had no idea what reviews were like or even what it was even about. Tell Me Three Things was a pleasant surprise – it felt like reading an old school Sarah Dessen book or dipping back into the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books – it was a cozy coming of age, a genre that seems to have all but disappeared since the early 2000s.
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?
In recent years it feels like the YA contemporary genre has had a massive drop in quality. Too often these books feel like they were rushed or serve as pure gushy, wish fulfillment for their readers. Tell Me Three Things feels like a return to form for the genre – it’s a slow burn that doesn’t immediately give the reader what they want. From my own experiences in middle school and high school, it felt realistic without being over the top, and cute without being a caricature. All of the angst and emotional moments felt as though they were earned and justified. To top it all off, the technical quality of Julie Buxbaum’s writing was top notch, with great pacing and storytelling.
High school dramas are character driven books – setting and plots don’t tend to change that much in this genre, so having amazing characters is the best was to stand out. Jessie was an amazing leading lady – she swam in raw emotion and was deeply relatable as she struggled through her new situation. Never once did I find myself questioning her motivations, they were always clear which made it easy to relate to her and root for her. SN on the other hand was impressive – having a character solely exist in text form with no identity is a risky move. It wasn’t until the final pages of the book that SN’s identity was revealed, but even before then they were an interesting character, with all of their characterization coming from their conversations with Jessie.
Before reading this book, I had never read anything by Julie Buxbaum, but now I’ll definitely be checking out her other books. It was cozy, adorable, angsty and really reminded me of my time in grade school. I would highly recommend this book to fans of Sarah Dessen or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. 5/5.