In Julie Buxbaum's first YA novel, sixteen-year-old Jessie moves from Chicago to California after her father remarries. She has no friends and is often bullied by the popular girls, all the while grieving for her mother, who died two years ago. Then a classmate messages her under the moniker "Somebody Nobody," and Jessie comes to rely on this stranger she has never met.
One of the main strengths of this book lies in the characters. Even in a first person narration, with a rather self-centered protagonist, Buxbaum brings all of the characters to life. With people from both Jessie's new and old life making appearances, this could be a tall order, but Buxbaum delivers. Despite having next to nothing in common with Jessie, I come to care for her and the people around her.
This is also a romance in the best sense. Jessie's budding relationship with SN takes place over text, and there is no physical romance until the final scene. It is a relationship that is all at once brutally honest and more confused, in both cases because these characters have never met in person. The story is truly driven by Jessie and her thoughts.
For me, the only detractions were minor. First, I don't love extremely modern pop culture references, because apps and celebrities and news change so fast, and this book has many. However, I know this doesn't bother most readers--it will just date the book. Second, I did guess who SN was kind of early on. But spoilers have never bothered me, and I still enjoyed the story. My concerns can't take away the fact that this book is smart and doesn't hold back. On top of everything else, Tell Me Three Things has cursing, blunt & truthful discussions of sex & grief & alcohol, and a Gertrude Stein motif ("Jessie is Jessie is Jessie"--"a rose is a rose is a rose").
Despite being a YA book, Tell Me Three Things felt very adult--a grown up YA book. And through it all, Jessie's strong narrative voice carries the reader along the ups and downs of all of her relationships.
Disclaimer: I received an advance reader's copy from the publisher because I am a member of Young to Publishing. I was not compensated in any way and all opinions are my own.