Sunday, December 18, 2016

Everything You Want Me to Be

Title:  Everything You Want Me to Be
Author:  Mindy Mejia
Publication Information:  Atria/Emily Bestler Books. 2017. 352 pages.
ISBN:  1501123424 / 978-1501123429

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Running away sucked."

Favorite Quote:  "Acting is becoming someone else, changing your thoughts and needs until you don't remember your own anymore. You let the other person invade everything you are and then you turn yourself inside out, spilling their identity on to stage like a kind of bloodletting. Sometimes I think acting is a disease, but I can't say for sure because I don't know what it's like to be healthy."

Henrietta "Hattie" Hoffman is  a lovely young woman. She is a senior in high school. She is an actress. She has dreams of leaving her small Midwest town and moving to New York. Hattie Hoffman is found dead, her body desecrated. A small town reels from the murder. Who would kill Hattie and why?

This book tells Hattie's story - of the investigation into her death and of her life in the year leading up to her death. The title, Everything You Want Me to Be, describes Hattie's approach to life. She is actress on and off the stage, always playing a role. She has learned that "the first and most important lesson in acting is to read your audience. Know what they want you to be and give it to them." She "put[s] on the show, waiting for your real life to begin someday." This is the perspective the reader sees through Hattie's eyes. Her eyes are always on the next thing.

The story gradually reveals all the roles Hattie played in her life, the role so many of us take on in life. Daughter. Student. Friend. Girlfriend. Her last acting role is that of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. Read the symbolism into that! Somewhere deep inside is the real Hattie. Perhaps that is relevant. Perhaps that is not for it is one of her roles that possibly leads to her death. Which "audience member" sees through Hattie and kills her?

Set in a small town on Pine Valley, the cast of characters is fairly small. There is the sheriff Del Goodman, through whose eyes the reader sees the investigation. He is not just the sheriff but also a family friend who has known Hattie since the day her parents brought her home. There are Hattie's parents. Their son is a soldier, and they have prepared themselves for his possible death. However, they never imagined that they would have to bury their daughter. There is Portia Nguyen, Hattie's best friend with all the drama that a high school best friend entails. There is Tommy Kinakis, Hattie's boyfriend. There are Peter and Mary Lund, a high school teacher and his wife who have recently relocated from the big city to this small town. Peter's is the third perspective in the book. Why? The reason becomes very clear a short way into the book and makes him perhaps the least likable character in the book.

Is the killer one of them or is it someone else entirely - the director of Hattie's play or a "friend" from Hattie's online activities? This question keeps me guessing and turning the pages until the very end. My guesses keep going back and forth between different possibilities. A solution presents itself, then another, and then yet another. Based on characterizations and behavior, I think the culprit should be one particular character. All this guesswork combined with the intriguing character of Hattie herself makes for a great mystery read. Just for the record, my guess as to the guilty party proves wrong by the end.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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