*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Tell Me Something Real
Author: Calla Devin
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel. There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments. Vanessa is the middle child, a talented pianist who is trying to hold her family together despite the painful loss that they all know is inevitable. As she and her sisters navigate first loves and college dreams, they are completely unaware that an illness far more insidious than cancer poisons their home. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal…
Devin’s book is completely shocking and gut-wrenching. The outcome of this novel is something I could never have guessed, not in a million years. And I really liked it for this twist! Even though the twist was hard to stomach. This is a story of a family wracked by terminal illness. Three sisters have united together to survive and to help keep the family afloat. With their mother’s declining health and their father constantly at work, it falls on the shoulders of Adrienne, Vanessa, and Marie to join their mother on trips to the hospital in Mexico, to cook, to clean, and to take care of each other. When Beth and the adorable Caleb move in, suddenly their lives have structure again. But just when things look like they’re turning around, things get completely out of control.
I really connected with the protagonist, Vanessa. She’s a piano genius who processes and feels her emotions best through her music. She wants so badly to pursue this passion, but her complicated life means that she may have to give up everything she’s ever dreamed of. Her sister, Adrienne, is an artist, but she’s also angry, vulgar, and seems constantly on the edge of breaking. I felt her to be the most realistic, although not the most likeable. Her fear and pain is channeled through anger. She’s beautiful, but she lashes out. You see her softer side emerge in her love for her sisters, especially Marie, who she takes care of and crafts with.
Romance provide a bright spot in the story that is absolutely necessary in a very tragic tale. I’m not always a fan of a romance thrown into stories like this, especially one about family struggling in the most terrible time of their lives, but I think it does well here to provide a happier juxtaposition to the tragedy unfolding. It’s necessary and it’s a breath of fresh air in all the darkness. Caleb is recovering, but he is by no means healthy. He’s near-death experiences give him a much wider perspective of his world. He’s no-nonsense and straight to the point. He encourages Vanessa to be open and honest. He wants only for her to be herself and loves her for it. Their relationship is sweet and provides some much needed relief.
Overall, I was quite enthralled by Devin’s text. I read it in a night and would definitely read it again. It didn’t make me cry like I thought it would but it certainly gave me all the feels. I hope you’ll give it a chance!