Book Review – Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman
First published, 2020
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
“People tell me things. I learned that useful lesson freshman year. I guess I am trustworthy, not caring about gossip or rumors; I don’t feel the urge to tell secrets to get attention. Maybe I am so good at masking my judgments and opinions that they feel comfortable spewing their innermost thoughts. I never tell them what I actually think. They probably wouldn’t like it. I used to find it annoying, everyone’s opinions and feelings, a burden I didn’t want to carry. Now it comes in handy. I am the secret-keeper of our little group.”
p140, Chapter Eighteen, Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman
The story follows Malin, a Texan student at Hawthorne College, as she works her way through the halls of New England academia and the thorny world of young adult friendships.
Having never been entirely comfortable with social interactions and having spent her life as something of a loner, Malin uses the opportunities afforded her by her relocation to reinvent herself as the ultimate best friend.
Being at the centre of her small collective of college buddies, Malin ingratiates herself into the hearts and secrets of her friends until she not only knows everything about them, but everything they should be doing. But should anyone really know you that well? And how will Malin cope if her advice goes unheeded?
It took me the first half of the book to get a grip on Malin’s character. There was something just a little – off – about her. I couldn’t put my finger on it until towards the end – which I won’t spoil for you but it’s pretty explosive. Supporting cast of Gemma, Ruby, John, Max and Khaled were all very well-rounded. I especially liked Gemma; there’s something about a dramatic, drunken English student, lying to make herself more interesting that just appeals to me.
I liked the dynamic between Malin and Hale, the assistant professor/potential boyfriend, who tries to direct her towards a post graduate degree in English and forgo the law. It was fun to see how she liked someone tinkering in her life.
And the – again, no spoilers – but the bad guy characters were so well-written. I found the childhood bad guy particularly riveting, although animal lovers will want to get through some of his scenes as quickly as possible.
The story is told through various time periods, from Malin’s childhood in Texas to her New England graduation and beyond. I really like this style as a reader because it keeps me engaged and putting things together. Although as a reader in the UK, I struggled a bit with the school years. I left school at 16 and our school year names/grades are very different to anything you’d find in the States. As such, I had to google the ages for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors. That said, if you’re prepared to just read the book without knowing which class is which, I’m sure you’ll still have an enjoyable, unexpected, and haunting reading experience.