Thursday, January 05, 2017

Everything You Want Me To Be

Everything You Want Me To Be. Mindy Mejia. 2017. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: Everything You Want Me To Be is an adult mystery that seems like the perfect would-be movie. One unusual thing about this mystery is that it has three narrators: Hattie, the teenage victim; Del, the town sheriff or detective; and Peter, the high school English teacher. Del's chapters are all set very clearly in the "present." (2008) Peter and Hattie's chapters are all out of sorts. Some dating as far back as 2007!

One of the novel's strengths--in my opinion--is the characterization. Particularly Mejia's characterization of Hattie. How can a reader both LOVE and HATE a character at the same time? Hattie, you see, has a fatal flaw. Think Othello, King Lear, MacBeth. (I can only say that if Shakespeare had been writing this one, more characters would have ended up dead.) Speaking of Shakespeare, Mac--that Scottish play--is part of the story. Hattie is playing Lady MacBeth on the day that she's killed.

What is Hattie's fatal flaw? Well, she's a people pleaser with big ambitions. She doesn't know how to be emotionally honest with anyone. Every single relationship--no matter how big or small--tends to be artificial. (Things are beginning to change when....)
The first and most important lesson in acting is to read your audience. Know what they want you to be and give it to them. My Sunday-school teacher always wanted sweet smiles and soft voices. My middle-school gym teacher wanted aggressive baseball players, swinging like Sosa even if you couldn’t hit a parked car. My dad wanted hard workers—finish the chores well and without complaint. And even though I didn’t like my chores, I became Cinderella and slogged through them as patient and graceful as you please. Fit the character to the play. You knew you were playing it right when your audience was happy. They smiled and praised you and told each other how wonderful you were.
Even though there were times I really disliked Hattie's choices, when she said stuff like this, I couldn't help liking her.
Every book changes you in some way, whether it’s your perspective on the world or how you define yourself in relation to the world. Literature gives us identity, even terrible literature.
And here is Peter on Shakespeare:
SHAKESPEARE WAS one cunning SOB. I didn’t care much for his comedies, the farces full of village idiots and misplaced identities. I’d always gravitated to the tragedies, where even witches and ghosts couldn’t distract the audience from this central psychological truth: by our own natures, we are all inherently doomed. Shakespeare didn’t write anything new. He didn’t invent jealousy, infidelity, or the greed of kings. He recognized evil as timeless and shone a spotlight directly, unflinchingly on it and said, This is what we are and always will be.
My thoughts: This is a compelling read, I won't lie. But also an uncomfortable one--for me, as a Christian. This one has a lot of profanity--some blasphemy--and some graphic scenes. If it was cleaner, I would have liked it more. That being said, my personal preferences are just that--personal and subjective. It is definitely a gritty, dark read.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Kailana said...

I am curious about this one, but not something I would rush out and read.