Monday, February 6, 2017
High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.
Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction? -- Atria/Emily Bestler Books
EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE by Mindy Mejia has certainly been receiving some stellar reviews. It received a starred review from Booklist along with accolades and Best of lists from People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, BookBub, and Bustle. I was extremely excited to read this novel because it sounded like a book I'd enjoy... and I'm happy to say that I did like this one quite a bit.
EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE tells the story of Hattie Hoffman, a teenage girl who lives in a small town in Minnesota. Hattie is nearing graduation and she can't wait to leave her hometown for New York City and Broadway. Hattie has always been an actress (and quite an impressive one at that), but she feels trapped because she's always been playing parts -- the ambitious student, the attentive daughter, the doting girlfriend, and so on.
On the opening night of her high school play (which she, of course, stars in!), Hattie is found dead in a barn. The local sheriff Del Goodman, a close Hoffman family friend, is determined to find her killer; however, it's not as cut and dry as he hoped. The most obvious suspect is Hattie's married, high school English teacher with whom she has been having an affair. But as Goodman digs into the investigation, he uncovers more and more secrets... and more and more questions.
Hattie is far from the teenager that the local folks thought they knew and loved. She is an extremely complex teen who had her sights set on something more... and her ambitions just might be the reason she ended up dead.
EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE is a very readable thriller. I enjoyed the characters and story, and I thought the mystery was well constructed. I admit that I didn't like Hattie at all (I don't think I was supposed to!), but that didn't change my opinion of the novel. She wasn't a very nice girl; and as the novel progressed, she became more and more manipulative. I also didn't exactly like her love interest, a married high school teacher -- yuck!, but I found him much more human... and maybe even forgivable because he did have guilt and remorse. Hattie, on the other hand, was all about Hattie.
I did liked the sheriff, Del Goodman, though. He was a good man (no pun intended), and he really wanted to get to the bottom of Hattie's death so her parents could have some closure. As he learned the truth about Hattie's last few months of her life, he was kind of between a rock and a hard place because of his closeness to the family. He also had some complexity because of his past; however, I feel as if the author could have developed him a bit more. Maybe that's because I actually liked him and wasn't fond of the other main characters.
I found EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE to be a true page-turner, and I definitely appreciated the twists and turns! One thing I felt made this novel special was how the author decided to tell the story. The story was told in alternating chapters by Hattie, Goodman and the teacher; and as a result, the reader gets an inside view into all of their characters. The book also had flashbacks to events during Hattie's senior year, so we can see how her murder and the events surrounding it occurred.
I did appreciate the murder mystery aspect of the story, and it definitely kept me guessing. There were a few twists and turns, and I have to say that I thought the culprit was somebody else entirely. I'm not sure that all readers will be surprised, but I liked that I was.
Overall, EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE is a strong suspense novel with some interesting characters. Highly recommended to fans of literary suspense.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.