All I can say is WOW! I just finished Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum and I feel like this should be required reading for teens and adults. Buxbaum is the author of multiple adult titles as this was her first YA novel and it was truly a gem. Thankfully I heard through the grapevine she is at work on her next YA which is great news for us as this book solidifies her as a YA pro. I will say I was hooked from the first page, the authors note, as it gives a glimpse into the inspiration behind the book as well as an emotional touch from Julie. I felt it was the perfect key to unlock the world that is all Tell Me Three Things.
At the heart of the novel is Jessie who lost her mom and is uprooted to California to live with her dad’s new wife and son. Planted into the “privileged” life, Jessie is homesick and missing her best friend, Scar. She starts at a new private school where the boys are dreamy and the girls are snooty. One day after school Jessie receives an anonymous text from “SN” aka “Somebody/Nobody”. SN can see Jessie is struggling at fitting in and decides to form a friendship via text messages, all the while keeping his anonymity. Jessie is intrigued and can see they have lots in common but she really has no clue who he is. In the meantime Jessie does start to form friendships and really tries to fit in with the boys and the girls. As the relationship between SN and Jessie develops she starts to see how important he is to her and how much she relies on him. She finds her self caught in a triangle of three boys who all have the potential to be SN but Jessie isn’t sure who she wants to reveal their real identity.
Tell Me Three Things is a blend of love, family, loss and friendships. Jessie is the girl who you will root for right until the last page. She is real, vulnerable and strong- she is who we should all aspire to be like or at least raise daughters to be like. Buxbaum brought me back to the world of high school and all the drama it entails, but oh what those years meant to me 🙂 As I said before she solidified her place in the YA world with this novel and this is because the plot is rich with complex characters and real, tangible feeling. I was so excited to be able to ask Julie a few questions about the inspiration for the book as well as some fun questions about Julie herself. See below!
Q & A with Julie Buxbaum
1. Based on the authors note, which I loved, it sounds like this novel had a personal connection. What made you want to write about this now?
I’ve written a lot about mother loss throughout the years in both novels and essays, but until recently, I’ve never felt comfortable going back and revisiting that really tough time when I first lost my mom. It seemed easier, somehow, to talk more about the long term aftermath of grief (how it impacted planning my wedding, for example) instead of really thinking about and remembering the day-to-day of high school and what it was like during those crucial years when the loss was so fresh and raw. I think maybe becoming a parent myself, which for the first time made me feel like I was truly an adult—not just someone who adulted on the side—gave me the courage (and perhaps triggered the need in the first place) to revisit and come to terms with that part of my past.
2. Were you like Jessie as a teen? If not, what was your favorite part in developing her?
I have to be honest: Jessie is so much more poised and cooler than I ever was as a teenager. She’s also tougher too. I don’t think I would have handled being dropped into a whole new family and new school with nearly as much grace as she does. And though I definitely borrowed from some of my own experiences and memories of what it felt like to be 16, my favorite part of writing her was getting to create someone so much cooler than I was, someone I had wished I had known and been more like at that age.
3. It says at the end of the novel you had received an anonymous email. Care to share any details to your readers?
When I was in my early 20’s, I received an anonymous email from what I guess could best be described as a secret admirer. It came completely out of the blue. I never found out who he was, but oddly enough, like with Jessie, his note arrived exactly when I needed it most. I was feeling down and insecure and had never before thought of myself as someone who other people noticed, and then all of a sudden, there was this ridiculously sweet, almost magical email! It sounds crazy now, but it changed my life.
4. You really kept the reader guessing with who SN was. Without giving spoilers, did you know in beginning who Jessie would be with or did it change over time?
Yes. I knew before I even sat down to write the book who SN was going to be. Usually, I’m very much a fly by the seat of my pants kind of writer, but I don’t think it would be possible to coherently write this sort of book (and keep the voices distinct) without knowing the identity of such an essential character. I love when surprises pop up while I’m writing, and that’s how some of the red herrings came about, but I never wavered about the true SN.
5. As a writer, where is your favorite place to write?
I was a coffee shop writer for years—almost all of Tell Me Three Things was written at a local café—but very recently I joined a writer’s room near my house. It’s sort of my version of heaven. All day coffee and tea and wifi and a CLEAN bathroom–I can’t tell you how key a clean bathroom is after having to use a public one for so long–and a room full of writers banging away at their laptops. I love it, and it’s a miracle that it sprung up just a few blocks from my house. Seriously, it’s like a dream come true.
6. Name 3 blissful things that you can’t live without?
- My family.
7. What is the first thing you do when you complete a book?
I celebrate for about five minutes, and then I start to panic. Is it any good? Is it boring? Is there anything here? Usually, I wait a week or two, re-read it, and then start editing. That’s when the best stuff comes—when a book really becomes a book for me—later, during the editing.
8. What was the last book that you read?
I’m currently reading NIGHTFALL by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski and so far, I’m totally hooked. It’s creepy and foreboding and I’m already terrified even though nothing scary has happened yet.
9. While on tour what is a must-have beauty product in your make-up bag?
Undereye concealer. Without it, I tend to scare young children.
10. Are you looking forward to any books that are coming out in 2016?
Yes! Kerry Kletter’s The First Time She Drowned just came out last week, and I can’t wait to dig into that one. Also, Jennifer Gilmore’s YA debut, We Were Never Here.
*Tell Me Three Things was sent to BBB for review purposes. Thanks to Delacorte Press!