My first Young Adult book of the year goes to Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. It’s been on my list for quite some time now, as I remember seeing it among the shelves of a local bookstore last year and distinctly remember I liked the cover. Heart-shaped waffles, how cute!
This book is so much more than just cutesy young adult-type “problems”. Jessie, a young high-schooler, has to adapt to more change than most young adults. Less than two years ago, her mom died and not long after her dad elopes with a woman Jessie has never met. Now their entire life in Chicago has been uprooted to LA, trading in brutal winters for juice cleanses and the wild, dramatic world of Wood Valley High School.
As if all of this wasn’t bad enough to handle at her age, she’s put into the guest bedroom in the mansion where her dad’s new wife and her son live. Trying to juggle losing her mom at such a young age, the emotions that come with dealing with her dad who remarried as if it were as simple as buying a new pair of shoes, and leaving behind her friends and life in Chicago, Jessie doesn’t know how life can get much worse. But it can, because teenagers and girls are mean and Jessie quickly learns she has no business trying to fit in with any group at her yuppie LA prep school.
Just when Jessie thinks she can’t tolerate much more, she gets an anonymous email from an alias called “Somebody Nobody”, or SN for short. Emails turn to IMs that quickly consume her entire day. IMs from “SN” are sometimes the only thing she looks forward to and as bizarre as it sounds, she’s really starting to find comfort in the anonymity of their exchanges.
As time goes on, Jessie becomes impatient to know the true identity of SN. This person isn’t just some creepy person who sits behind a screen sending her anonymous messages all day; this person is the one thing in Jessie’s life that seems worthy enough to get up in the morning. SN has been there for her in a way that no one in her life has; her dad abandoned her for his new wife, her best friend back in Chicago has moved on with a new group of friends, and the girls at Wood Valley are just plain awful.
Tell Me Three Things is a witty yet heartbreaking story full of grief, anxiety about fitting in and finding your place in life, and learning to adapt to unwanted change. Jessie is a total sweetheart who will steal your heart and leave you entirely too invested in a random, made-up teenager’s life. Oh, the joys of being a reader!