“Everything You Want Me To Be” by Mindy Meji

Last night I finished Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia. It had been on my TBR list for some time and I was excited to finally grab a copy at the library. I absolutely adore the cover of this book, it just screams dark and twisted. This book was labeled as a thriller/murder mystery, but I’d put it in the sub-genre of “high schoolers having inappropriate relationships with adults/teachers.” I’ve actually read and watched a surprising number of books and shows with this theme lately (The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, Dare Me, Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, etc.) so I feel like I’m a little burned out, but Everything You Want Me To Be did it well.

The book opens with a dead, mutilated body found in an old shed, which turns out to be that of Herietta “Hattie” Hoffman, all-American high school senior and star of the school play. Hattie is a good student, a promising actress, and a kind, albeit sharp-tongued young woman. She has a happy home life and dreams of moving to New York City after graduating to pursue a career on Broadway. Hattie has no enemies, or so it seems, which makes her death within a small town even more shocking.

The investigation soon reveals that Hattie is having a fiery internet relationship with a stranger named “LG.” But when it turns out that Hattie and LG are less of strangers than they think, he calls their relationship off and sends Hattie spiraling. The story is told from alternating points of view between Hattie, her English Teacher Mr. Lund, and lead detective, Del. The mystery has your classic lead suspects: a lover scorned, the cheated-on spouse, the ex-boyfriend, the jealous best-friend, etc. While there are several minor red-herring moments, the big reveal didn’t prove to be terribly shocking.

This book has a few holes and lose strings, and I found myself being less intrigued in “whodunit” and more invested in Hattie’s illicit relationship with the older man. You start to feel empathetic to the adult in charge, as his and Hattie’s feelings and relationship seem to be genuine, real love. Thinking about this too much made me feel a bit uneasy and sick to my stomach. But, maybe that was the point. An overall enjoyable read.

3.5/5 stars.

www.mindymejia.com

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“Beautiful Animals” by Lawrence Osborne

Beautiful Animals isn’t the type of book I typically read. This would be considered more of a “literary thriller,” where there is a suspense aspect to the plot line, but the majority of the book is location description and character driven. I prefer my books to be on-the-edge-of-my-seat and to-the-point. With that being said, this novel wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, although I can appreciate it for being a lovely work of literature and certainly some peoples’ taste.

Set in Hydra, a small island off the coast of Greece, Beautiful Animals tells the story of a summer spent between two newfound friends and the trouble they find themselves encountering together. Naomi’s father, Jimmy, is a wealthy English businessman who purchased a home on the island long before it was fashionable or cool. Naomi has spent every summer living on Hydra, but, since the death of her mother, the summers are not nearly as enjoyable with her stepmother, Phaine. Naomi is rich and bored and sort of an odd duck. She’s in her mid 20’s,has been recently been fired from her job, and has no friends on the island. Until one morning after a swim, she meets Sam.

Sam is an American whose family is visiting Hydra for the first time. Sam is beautiful, but insecure, and immediately smitten by the more sophisticated Naomi. They quickly form a friendship over weed, booze, and their mutual distaste for their family, and find themselves spending every day with each other.

One afternoon, after a yacht trip to a remote part of the island, Naomi and Sam stumble upon a runaway from Syria, by way of Turkey, who has nothing to his name except the clothes on his back and a bar of soap. Faoud, they learn, was from a wealthy family in the middle east, but fled to Hydra to escape into Europe under asylum. Naomi and Sam have differing opinions as to what to do with their discovery, and the decision results in a disastrous tragedy neither could have imagined.

Beautiful Animals deeply investigates the psyche of two unstable young women in their quest to do the right thing. It also examines how far humans will go for greed, money, and freedom. This novel’s biggest strength is its setting. Osborne does a phenomenal job painting a picture of Hydra for the reader. I’ve always wanted to go to Greece, but now it is on my bucket list for sure. I found myself googling pictures of Hydra as I was reading, and understanding why someone would spend their entire summer in such a lovely place.

The biggest drawback was the disjointed character perspectives and slow plot. Osborne regularly switches back between Naomi, Sam, and Faoud, all within the same chapter and even the same paragraph. I found it somewhat hard to follow with the jumping back and forth. I appreciated the underlying story and character development of Beautiful Animals, but it didn’t get to the action quite quick enough for my liking, and never fully accelerated for me.

2.75 out of 5 stars. 

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/247814/beautiful-animals-by-lawrence-osborne/

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All thoughts and opinions are completely my own.