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Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

BOTTOM LINE: Intense and slightly depressing

Genre: Fiction; Suspense
Publication Date: 3 January 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

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 to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?”

My Thoughts: This is the second book released this week set in Minnesota. While History of Wolves is set in the isolated northern portion of the state, Everything You Want Me to Be is set in the rural middle. Both tend to show the native Minnesotans as hardworking, staid, and loyal. Both have young female main characters, but that is where the similarities end. Unlike Linda, Hattie is vibrant and constantly in the figurative and literal spotlight. She excels in school and in theater. Everyone loves her, and her universal appeal establishes her as a shining star within the town. As such, her disappearance and later her body cause a major stir among her family and friends as well as the entire town.

Everything You Want Me to Be is as much a murder mystery as it is a novel about the various faces we have and the roles we play for each. There is the external ones for our friends, our coworkers, our manager, our fellow churchgoers, our community, and so forth. Then there is the internal one that never really sees the light of day. This is where we hide our most basic elements of ourselves, our desires, our intelligence, our biases. While we like to think that our loved ones know this inner self, the truth is that there will always be a small part of ourselves we hold back from even our most trusted friend.

So it goes with Hattie, a natural actress in every part of the word. She freely admits that she is a young woman with many faces, finely attuned to what her audience needs to see and hear from her and adept at adopting that. This skill has gotten her far, but as we soon find out, she has tired of her constant acting and longs for someone to know the real her. Enter the mysterious new English teacher and the ensuing drama.

In addition to the murder mystery, Everything You Want Me to Be is also a tragedy. A beautiful, young, talented woman on the cusp of greatness is dead and a community is rocked to its core by not only her murder but also the secrets that come to light during the investigation. However, that is not the true tragedy. The true tragedy lies in the fact that Hattie thinks so little of herself that she feels she has to act in order to make friends and please others, that she cannot be even somewhat true to herself when interacting with her parents. Hattie’s story is a great example of the problems that occur when you try to please everyone and fail to stay true to yourself in the process.

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