Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Tell Me Three Things Audio

Tell Me Three Things Audio

Julie Buxbaum
For ages 14 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Jorjeana Marie
Listening Library, 2016   ISBN: 978-0147521279

Seven hundred and thirty-three days ago Jessie’s mother died. Forty-five days ago her dad eloped with a woman that he met on an online bereavement group. Thirty days ago Jessie and her father moved to Los Angeles from Chicago so that they could live with her father’s new wife and her sixteen-year old son. Jessie left behind the only home she had ever known, her school, and her best friend. She has been swept along by one disaster after another, and now she feels terribly alone and unsure about what is going to happen next.

One thing she does know is that she is dreading going to the fancy private school that her new stepmother is sending her to. Starting a new high school when you are sixteen is the pits. She is sure that her new school is going to be a nightmare. And it is. She knows no one and no one wants to get to know her. Life in a private school in L.A. is different from life in a public school in Chicago. And it is also the same. The popular girls might be skinnier and blonder, but they are still mean, and they don’t think much of Jessie. One girl in particular decides to target Jessie, hurting the new arrival with her cruel comments and looks.

Then, seven days after starting in her new school, Jessie gets an email from a complete stranger. All she knows is that he is a boy in her school. He offers his “expertise” to help her negotiate her new school, and he tells her she is going to need help because “this place is a freaking war zone.” He will be her “virtual spirit guide,” and will help her make friends and avoid the possible pitfalls that lie ahead. The only thing he will not tell he is his name. She will have to be content with calling him Somebody Nobody or SN.

Not surprisingly, Jessie is very suspicious of this peculiar communication. Maybe the writer is actually a girl who is trying to make a fool of her. Maybe he is a stalker. However, something about the relationship she builds with SN is attractive. She can edit what she writes before she sends it – which she cannot do when she speaks to someone - and as the days go by she starts to feel comfortable with the whole arrangement, strange though it is.

Thanks to SN, Jessie makes a friend and she starts to feel a little less lost and alone. She gets a job in a book shop, which is perfect as she loves books, and then she makes another friend. Life at school is starting to look up. At home the picture is quite different. It is true that her stepbrother, Theo, is actually talking to her now, and it turns out that he is actually a decent person. Most of the time. Jessie’s relationships with her father and her new stepmother are another thing altogether. Jessie’s dad is so wrapped up in his own life, in his new marriage and his new circumstances, that he barely notices that Jessie is grieving and struggling too. His new wife is so cold and brittle, so detached, and she and Jessie barely speak.

As so often happens, feelings that are held in eventually break out, and they do so in an explosive manner. Jessie’s father and his wife fight. Then Jessie and her father finally talk and that does not go well at all either. Everything is a mess and the only thing that really seems to help is Jessie’s friendship with SN.

This wonderful story explores how members of a new family cope with grief and change. It is fascinating to see how Jessie comes to terms with her new circumstances, and how she comes to appreciate that she does not have to let life happen to her. She has a voice of her own that needs to be heard. As the story unfolds, listeners will be eager to find how the sweet relationship between Jessie and SN works out. Is the boy who understands her so well someone she can like in the real world?