A review by adornhoe
Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman


While I am always here for stories of the academia with murder variety, this novel turned out to be rather disappointing.

One reason for this is the main character and first-person narrator, Malin. Of course, a character narrator does not have to be likable, but unfortunately, Malin is not even interesting. From its very beginning to the end, all the over 400 pages of the book can be summarized as: “I am not like normal people. I do not have normal feelings and I observe everything.” This can be an interesting basis for a character, but Malin makes this apparent very early on and then it just goes on and on and on like this, with no variety, interesting insights, or development. I felt like I was stuck at a bar with a conversation partner who was very insistent about telling me what kind of person they are instead of giving me an opportunity to actually get to know them to see for myself what kind of person they are.

Malin’s narrative voice overshadows everything, and since she has a very boring voice the book feels much longer than it is. I am not actually a strong proponent of the old “show, don’t tell” truism since things can be told beautifully, thoughtfully, and in a way that enriches a reading experience, but in this book nothing was ever shown. For every interaction, dialogue or event, there was Malin, handing us the Sparknotes version of what had happened.

Sadly, this is not a story unfolding and characters becoming knowable in their interactions, this is a first-person narrator drunk on bad psychology books overanalyzing herself in the most banal and obvious way possible.

Another problem of this book is for me that the non-linear timeline device rarely felt more useless to me and in this novel it contributes nothing to the story. There is no gradual peeling back of the layers of Malin’s personality, and I really wonder why it was decided to tell the story in this order.

In general, I find the idea fascinating of exploring how a character shaped by a traumatic event in their childhood goes through college and how their past affects how they connect with people. The passages from Malin’s childhood memories are the most interesting and touching of the whole book.

In the case of this story, I think that a chronological way of storytelling would have been more fruitful – then, the episodes from Malin’s childhood could lay solid groundwork upon which a fleshed-out development of her character as well as rising suspense could be built. Now, the jumps just feel random and instead of an intensifying of suspense the reader experiences a feeling of stagnation.

Aside from not being a fan of Malin’s character voice, I quite liked the writing style, and there were some very beautiful descriptions of the campus. I also enjoyed most of the side characters and a story told from one of their perspectives would maybe have been more interesting.

Content notes:
SpoilerAlcohol, drugs, abusive relationships, cruelty towards & murder of animals, offhanded comment about asexuality means being a „weird anti-sex freak“

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