Bookshots: 'Everything You Want Me to Be' by Mindy Mejia
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Everything You Want Me to Be
Who Wrote It?
Mindy Mejia, author of the YA Dragonkeeper duology. Mejia hails from the Twin Cities and includes positions as an orchard labourer and global credit manager on her resume. EYWMTB is her first adult novel
Plot in a Box:
A small town teen dreams of the big city and messes around with guys. It does not end well.
Invent a New Title for This Book:
Shakespeare in the Wheat Fields
Read This If You Like(d):
Comparisons to Gone Girl et al are inevitable but actually unfair, because this is a far better book than any of those. Mejia has an instinct for our dark places and the tight control of a writer like Jim Thompson. If you like Thompson, read this.
Meet the Book’s Lead(s):
Hattie Hoffman: high school student headed for acting greatness
Del Goodman: grizzled local sheriff
Pete Lund: recently appointed High School English teacher
Said Lead(s) Would Be Portrayed in a Movie By:
Hattie: The obvious choice is Shailene Woodley, who is an expert at portraying that mixture of innocence and knowingness common to young women discovering their sexual power.
Del: After his stand out performance in Hell or High Water only Jeff Bridges will do for the part.
Pete: Here we need someone fundamentally decent but also pettish and weak. I’m going with Sebastian Arcelus, best known for playing Lucas Goodwin in House of Cards. He does vacillation brilliantly.
Setting: Would You Want to Live There?
All characters living in fictional small towns spend most of their time fervently wanting to escape them. I would be no different.
What Was Your Favorite Sentence?
There wasn’t anything to a curse but words.
I’m going to award Simon and Schuster my special prize for Publisher Who Most Stoutly Resisted the Temptation for Obvious Comparisons in 2016 because nowhere in any of the marketing materials for this book did anyone mention Gone Girl, or at least if they did, I wasn’t paying attention because I began reading it in a state of relaxed and happy anticipation instead of the state of teeth grinding rage that would have resulted from witnessing yet another attempt to cash in on the Latest Big Thing.
I’m happy about that because Everything You Want Me to Be is a very good book. It’s a book with a point and a purpose and something to say about young women and small towns and sexuality, and it says what it has to say with none of the hysteria and drama and wall-crashing finales of some of its recent companions. Hattie Hoffman, clever, talented and bored, can’t wait to escape the confines of her Missouri prison. Stuck for something to amuse her in her senior year, she fixates on forbidden fruit, in the form of recent big city transplant Peter Lund. Lund is her English teacher. His wife is a local girl, returned to care for her sick mother. Hattie is underage. Unimpressed by these Shakespearean-sized obstacles, Hattie finds time between her rehearsals of the High School performance of Macbeth to find ways to uncross the stars between her and Pete, including the acquisition of pet rock boyfriend Tommy Kinasis to deflect attention from her determined seduction of Lund.
Hattie’s plans to be with Pete forever go horribly wrong and the meat of the book is concerned with unravelling how and why the tragedy happened. Enter Del Goodman, the latest in a long line of fictional dogged lawmen. Through the eyes of Del, we see a community that is caring and decent and probably voted Trump. Hell, Del probably voted Trump too, but that doesn’t stop him from being a right thinking man. Del knocks on doors and avoids obvious conclusions and eventually gets to the truth, more by luck than smart thinking, but that’s kind of the point of the story. Like Shakespeare said, fate plays a bigger part in our lives than we ever care to admit. We’re all just wandering barks, Mejia tells us. The best we can hope for is to keep afloat.
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