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.
We all have secrets. Something we’ve done that’s shameful. Something we hide away from the world so people only see the person we want them to think we are, as opposed to the one who committed that awful act or gave into temptation of some kind. For most of us, it’s something personal and private. Shame isn’t something easily or willingly shared, after all. But sometimes, the ugly things we do affect other people and that’s when things get complicated. It’s that shared and collective understanding of committing a humiliating and/or immoral deed that makes Everything You Want Me to Be so gripping and powerful.
But beyond simple empathy for the circumstances, the other compelling ingredient in this novel is the beautifully honest characters and dialogue. The three primary characters Del, Hattie and Peter are each flawed to some degree but also self-aware enough to be conscious of when they fail in both their thoughts and actions. They all spend much of the novel hiding their true thoughts and motivations, even from the people they care about the most. At times, they question if they’re even being honest with themselves.
Although my overall experience with this novel was unquestionably positive, I do have a couple nitpicks to point out (because that’s just what I do):
Despite my minor quibbles, this was a wonderfully authentic and emotional story with a deliciously slow build of tension. As the drama unfolds and secrets are revealed across a fascinating time-jumping storyline, the three protagonists are slowly drawn together in a shocking and heartbreaking ending that will leave you feeling drained, shocked, frustrated and ultimately saddened.
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