Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Goodreads Synopsis: 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 challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?
I love a good murder mystery and Everything You Want Me To Be really fits the bill. Although it started out like a fairly straightforward CSI/Rizzoli and Isle’s style murder investigation story, it ultimately ended up being a lot more complex and fascinating than I was anticipating. Everything You Want Me to Be is a fast-paced psychological thriller that took me on a wild and unexpected ride. The main character is high school senior Hattie Hoffman who is found brutally murdered in the opening pages of the novel. Hattie lives in a small, close knit town where not much of anything ever happens so her murder completely rocks the community. The pressure is on local law enforcement to find out what happened to Hattie and to bring the murderer to justice, which is the focus of the bulk of the novel.
Highlights of Everything You Want Me to Be:
Hattie Hoffman: Hattie is a complex and well-drawn character. I never could decide if I actually liked her or not, but regardless, I found her to be a truly fascinating young woman. Even though the novel begins with her death, we go back about a year before that to follow the events that lead up to her murder. In taking that journey, the reader learns that Hattie is basically an actress in every sense of the word. She of course acts on the stage in plays, but the more we learn about her, the more it becomes apparent that she has no real sense of who she is and sees herself as acting out various roles all her life trying to make other people happy – the good daughter, the model student, the doting girlfriend – even if it’s at the expense of her own happiness. I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, but it is unfortunately when she finally decides it’s time to figure out who she really is that Hattie sets into motion the chain of events that lead to her death.
Plot Twists: I love a mystery that is filled with plot twists, especially when the plot twists make sense and don’t seem contrived. In Everything You Want Me To Be, the author has woven together so many twists and turns that I was kept guessing the entire novel as to who the murderer was and what exactly had transpired the fateful night of Hattie’s death. I loved that I not only guessed wrong once or twice – I actually guessed wrong three times and each time was sure I had the right person. Every time I thought I had it all figured out, a new and equally plausible suspect would turn up.
Three Narrative Points of View: The story of Hattie’s murder unfolds from three different viewpoints through the eyes of Hattie, through the eyes of Del Goodman, the town sheriff and also a friend of Hattie’s family, and finally through the eyes of Peter Lund, Hattie’s English teacher and also one of the prime suspects in her murder. I know sometimes having so many different points of view can be confusing, but in this case, I thought seeing the story play out through these three sets of eyes really added a lot of layers to the tale.
Hattie and her classmates are working on a production of William Shakespeare’s MacBeth at the time of her murder. When she turns up dead, one of her classmates claims that her death is a result of the so-called “MacBeth Curse,” where historically, people have often met with misfortune during productions of the play. While I didn’t believe for one moment that Hattie had lost her life because of a supposed curse, I did love the added mystique that the “MacBeth Curse” cast over the events especially once the news media got wind that the curse had been mentioned during the police investigation.
Themes: Speaking of MacBeth, it served a dual purpose in this novel. Not only is it the play Hattie was starring in when she was killed, but more importantly, it also shares major thematic elements with Everything You Want Me To Be, particularly regarding the dangers of acting on one’s desires without regard for the potential consequences. I won’t go so far as to call this a retelling of MacBeth, but there are definite similarities in that sense. Hattie going after what she wants no matter the fallout is very reminiscent of Lady MacBeth.
Anything I Didn’t Care For:
The only real complaint I had throughout the novel was that sometimes it felt like the whole “Hattie is playing a part” angle of the story was laid on a little thick. I guess it was because we’re reading the three different viewpoints coming to the same conclusion, but at a certain point, I just kept thinking “Okay, that’s enough. I get it.” That’s probably just me though. I tend to prefer story threads like that to be a little more subtle so that I can connect the dots myself and so reading it several different times was a little heavy-handed for me. That said, it didn’t remotely take away from my overall enjoyment of the story.
Who Would I Recommend This Novel To?
Everything You Want Me To Be is a well-crafted “whodunnit.” If you like a suspenseful read that will keep you guessing from start to finish, I would definitely say to give this one a shot! I probably would not recommend it to younger audiences since the discovery of the body and the murder itself are pretty graphic, but other than that, I think most audiences would enjoy it.
Rating: 4 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an e-galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affects my review.