Everything You Want Me To Be
by Mindy Mejia
Everything You Want Me To Be was an intense, twisty thriller. It was suspenseful, engaging, and after finishing it: haunting. I can’t stop thinking about it. I loved it, but it was so sad. I definitely feel down after reading it, but it was brilliantly written and for that reason, I liked it.
The story is about the murder of a small town girl, and is told from three perspectives. The first perspective is Hattie’s. She is the young girl who died and she tells her side of the story leading to her murder. The second is Peter, the high school English teacher who also tells the story as it leads up to Hattie’s death. And the third is Del, the town’s sheriff, who is working the case from Hattie’s death and trying to piece the mystery together. All three blend to tell the whole story. Spoilers: Hattie performs for everyone. She figures out what someone (her parents, teachers, boyfriend) wants and becomes that person, ignoring what she wants. She is also a gifted actress who performs in her high school and community theaters. She’s a senior and determined to move to New York when she graduates. Peter is a young English teacher at Hattie’s high school. He’s moved into this small town with his wife from Chicago because his mother-in-law is ill and needs care. He becomes resentful as his wife pours more and more into her mother and her mother’s chicken farm, neglecting Peter. She no longer wants to talk to him and slowly shuts him out, so he stops trying after a while. Peter turns to the internet and begins talking to Hattie on a New York forum (though they don’t know it as they have pseudonyms). They have lots in common and soon they have cyber sex. One day in class Peter quotes something Hattie had said online and she figures out who he is. She asks him if they can meet and they do at her performance of Jane Eyre. They continue their affair, meeting sporadically after Hattie turns 18. Peter tries to end it several times, but Hattie always pulls him back in. Then Peter finds out his wife is pregnant (from one night together) and she tells him she’s not moving back to Chicago. He decides he needs to end things with Hattie for good to give his marriage another chance. Hattie accepts it at first, but then realizes that they are miserable apart and that even though it will be hard, they have to fight to be together. She pulls together a desperate plan for them to move to New York together, even buying the bus tickets and pooling their money. She tells Peter and he agrees to do it because he loves her and wants to be with her. They are in a barn on Peter’s neighbor’s property and completely alone (or so they think – in fact Peter’s wife was out cleaning knives for her chicken business and heard Peter come home, so followed him to his meeting with Hattie and saw how they were in love). She left the knife (hardly realizing she had it still) and went home. Before their meeting, Hattie broke up with her boyfriend Tommy, and after Peter left, Tommy came in with the knife (having seen Hattie with Peter) and confronts Hattie before killing her. Unbeknownst to him, Hattie had been recording her happiness (Peter left Hattie after a joyful time together and that’s when she started recording), so her murder was fully recorded. Tommy’s reappearance isn’t known at first and everything points to Peter as the killer. He thinks his pregnant wife killed Hattie, so he confesses to protect her. It isn’t until Tommy dies from drunk driving that they find the knife and tape. Peter is released (but not before losing his job and marriage) and Del takes some pity on him. He gives Peter the tickets and money Hattie had put aside and sends him to New York to start a new life. It’s so, so sad for so many reasons. And yet, it was so good!
Also, a totally random quote from Peter in one of his classes that has nothing to do with the plot, but I loved it: “This is about reading and critically thinking about what you’ve read and how the text has changed you. Every book changes you in some way, whether it’s your perspective on the world or how you define yourself in relation to the world. Literature gives identity, even terrible literature.”
Summing it up: I really enjoyed this book, even though it was so sad, and definitely recommend it!
All the best, Abbey