The question of whether it is possible to really know another human being is not original or ground-breaking in any way, but with Everything You Want Me To Be, Mindy Mejia has taken this theme which recurs in many psychological suspense novels and turned it into a meditative journey every bit as gripping as any pulse-pounding thriller.
Readers know right from the beginning of Everything You Want Me To Be that Hattie Hoffman has been murdered. What follows is an exploration of the final year in this young girl’s life – and how she came to be a stabbing victim. Like many people, Hattie tried to be something different for each person in her life – the perfect daughter, the dedicated student, the loyal friend, the adventurous girlfriend, the talented actress – and yet, in many ways, Hattie was none of those things and all of those things simultaneously.
Told from three points of view, the plot of the novel is as twisty and convoluted as you might expect. In addition to Hattie’s chapters, readers also get perspectives from Del Goodman, the sheriff investigating Hattie’s death and Peter Lund, the high school teacher consumed with enough secrets and dysfunction to throw anything he says in question. Weaving in allusions and references to classic works such as Jane Eyre and Macbeth gives the story cultural touchstones that are both familiar and relevant.
Rather than focusing on the suspense and twists, Mindy Mejia doles out tidbits of Hattie’s life in completely realistic ways. Each step of the investigation into her murder follows logically from what has come before. This is not to say that there are not surprises to be discovered, just that those looking for action-packed set pieces best look elsewhere. In Everything You Want Me To Be, small town dynamics, forbidden love, and teenage rebellion are presented as contributing factors to creating the person that is/was Hattie Hoffman. These facets – and others – become almost like diary entries in the autobiography of Hattie’s last year of life.
Mindy Mejia’s writing style is effortless. Shortly after starting Everything You Want Me To Be, readers will find that they are addicted to the accessible style and long to know everything about Hattie. The secrets of other characters are exposed throughout the narrative, but there is never any doubt that they are simply collateral damage on our journey to really know Hattie Hoffman. But as readers of the book discover, regardless of how well you might know someone, it is impossible to truly know them. That is the theme of the novel, and the writing only reinforces that.
In the end, Everything You Want Me To Be is a thoroughly satisfying reading experience. One hopes that Mindy Mejia continues writing in the genre as her future observations and explorations will no doubt result in additional compelling tales for the enjoyment of readers everywhere.
Disclaimer: An print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.