Atheneum Books for Young Readers
August 30, 2016
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Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel.
There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments.
Vanessa is the middle child, a talented pianist who is trying to hold her family together despite the painful loss that they all know is inevitable. As she and her sisters navigate first loves and college dreams, they are completely unaware that an illness far more insidious than cancer poisons their home. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal…
Calla Devlin's writing in Tell Me Something Real really is fantastic. It's not only her phrasing and its sometimes lyrical quality but the comparisons she draws and how thoughts and emotions are related to other parts of the characters' lives. Vanessa's love of music, her talent as a pianist isn't just something she does; who she is in the orchestra, where the piano is, how she views performing all play into other parts of who she is, what she thinks, her reactions and how she feels. The way it's all pulled together to form a complete, complex character was really fascinating.
Vanessa is, by no means, the only well done character in this book. They are all pretty great and have their own parts in the story.
The Babcock sisters - Adrienne, Vanessa and Marie - were not only my favorite characters in the story, but their relationships with each other, with their mother and with their father were the best part of the novel. Adrienne and Vanessa are close together in age (just a grade apart in school) but have very different personalities. Though they're reacting to their mother's cancer and treatments differently, we still see how much they care about and love each other.
Maire was so different than the babied, youngest sister I was expecting. How she reacts to everything is something truly unique that still makes perfect sense and somehow endears you to her more.
The 'romance' aspects of Tell Me Something Real seemed secondary, in importance and strength - to everything with the Babcock family and the sisters but I liked that. This is a story very much about Vanessa, her identity, the hardships she (along with her sisters and parents) are facing, truths uncovered. It's about how she deals with everything, who (and what) helps and what she discovers about herself.
Some of the bigger 'truths' of the story I anticipated pretty far in advance but it was how they were revealed, the full truth, how everyone reacted and was impacted and the eventual fallout that I not only couldn't predict but that kept me reading.
digital copy received for review, thanks to publisher, via NetGalley