Four out of five stars.
Tell Me Something Real is a story about coping. Coping as an individual and coping within the family. The book is told from Vanessa’s perspective, the middle child to a mother dying of leukemia forced to manage responsibilities she shouldn’t have to manage at her age.
At the beginning of the book, I thought it was going to be a knock off of The Fault in our Star by John Green. Both stories have similar elements: cancer, overly mature young adults, and a budding romance. However, Tell Me Something Real turned out to be a very different story (explaining this further would result in my spoiling the book).
What I liked most about this book is the focus on coping methods. Every person has different coping methods and this is highlighted thoroughly through each of the sisters. The youngest sister, Marie, becomes fixated on religious saints, Vanessa drowns herself in her musical abilities, and the eldest, Adrienne, begins drawing. They each try to figure out their position in the world and how to deal with what’s happened to them through their relationships with each other and their various talents. It was refreshing to read about healthy coping methods for a change.
Another interesting aspect of this book is the topic of parents’ ability to care for their children and what happens when they fail. When I speak about failing, I don’t mean losing custody of the children, but of failing to protect them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Their father fails in many ways throughout the book and we watch as each of the girls deal with his failures in different ways. It’s a devastating moment to realize parents aren’t infallible and even harder to cope with. Tell Me Something Real offers different perspectives of dealing with this failure despite it only being told from one character’s perspective.
Overall, Tell Me Something Real is a beautifully heart wrenching story about coping, grief, failure, and moving forward. It begins similarly to The Fault in our Stars, but turns into something much different that you won’t be disappointed to have read.