It’s not very often that I add a title to my list of favorite books, and I’ve never felt the burning desire to create a shelf for my favorite reads on Goodreads – that is, until this moment. After finishing up with Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be, I am nearly speechless. What Mejia has pulled off in her book is nothing short of a impressive.
One of the things that caught my interest when I was browsing through titles to request on NetGalley was the synopsis for this novel, which I found to be unique. Most books give you a loose summary of the plot, sans spoilers. It’s the information that you usually find on the back of a book, really. That little tidbit of information for Everything You Want Me to Be defied the norm in that regard by blatantly telling potential readers that they would be following the life of a girl up until her death which, if you ask me, is a pretty big spoiler: one that leaves a challenge at that. If you tell your readers that the main character is dead, the question that remains is this: how are you going to keep them hooked? Mejia’s reply to that query comes in the form of a plot full of nerve-wracking twists and turns that, no matter how certain a reader might be, is likely to still leave them searching for answers. (I was actually guessing until the very end how this book would play out, and I did not figure it out until the very last moment, when there were only lines left until the major reveal.)
Everything You Want Me to Be is a whodunnit novel – of that, I have no doubt. Eighteen-year-old Henrietta Hoffman, full of talent and with her whole life ahead of her, is murdered. It was someone close to her, according to evidence, and its left to the sheriff, who happens to be the girl’s father’s best friend, to find out who’s behind it. It is also a psychological thriller. Reading this book, I felt things I did not want to feel. Where I felt I should be directing anger and disgust, I could not; in fact, my least favorite character is actually the victim, rather than the various suspects I encountered as I read.
Henrietta, or Hattie as she prefers to be called, is a typical teen-aged girl, facing the usual obstacles of small town life. Having been in her shoes, I was able to connect with her and, in some ways, relive my own past as I read through her dialogue. Born and raised in rural south Minnesota, Hattie has dreams of the Big Apple. Every moment of her free time is spent focusing on those dreams, and while she’s browsing through a forum, she meets a guy that she ends up falling in love with. Through private messages, a relationship blooms, and she and this guy embark upon a journey with an unknown destination. It’s a pretty easy web to get caught up in, especially when one spends most of their time pleasing other people, which Hattie obviously does.
The book is told from three perspectives in total: Henrietta’s, Peter’s, and Del’s. Peter is a teacher at her school and Del is the town’s sheriff. In addition to these three vastly different points-of-view, there is a plethora of minor characters and, surprisingly enough, they all have their own quirks and flaws. I have to admit I’m actually impressed by how much depth there is to Mejia’s characters and that she’s written them in such a way that it’s easy to remember their traits. More often than not, when there’s so many characters to flesh out, it is way too easy to lose track of individual character traits.
I can’t say a whole lot about the plot’s flow really. To be honest, it is a bit all over the place. Considering that Everything You Want Me to Be is written in a loose journal-style and one of the speakers is the sheriff, that is to be expected. Obviously there isn’t much of a need to include him prior to the discovery of Hattie’s body. Also, the story starts at the end, then hooks back to a year prior to the murder. Fortunately, each shift in voice is dated, so it’s not too much of a challenge to keep up with.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy for the purpose of an unbiased review. I can’t wait for a chance to purchase a physical copy of this book for my shelf!