Review: Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin


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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…

review

3/5 Stars

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re looking for a coming of age drama with a twist you won’t see coming
  • You like books that are NOT romance driven
  • Sisterhood is everything

Tell Me Something Real is unexpected and eye-opening. At first, it reads like your typical coming of age drama and then, the truth. It took a good 10 minutes for me to process and as the story continued to unravel, the severity of the “real” had a subtle punch that built into a nightmare. The damage that can come from a single choice made by someone you love can be life long and brutal. The aftershock is hard to escape. 

Tell Me Something Real is set in the 1970s. Sometimes it feels that way and others it feels more like contemporary day-to-day life. The setting was inconsistent. While there were a handful of historical references and music preferences, it didn’t feel like a big deal. I wasn’t transported or invested in the time period. Perhaps the time choice was for the particular type of experimental cancer drug, but it wasn’t explained. 

Sisterhood is everything in this story. Each Babcock girl is so different, but their bond is undeniable and transcendent. They love each other. It’s in everything they do. The way they tease each other, they way they comfort and ease each other’s fears. They’re going through something horrific, extremely traumatic and life-altering. It’s a slow and hallow experience, that helplessness that overwhelms when you watch a loved one succumb to their sickness. There’s nothing you can do but wait. That feeling, the raw and painful truth of it is well written and on point. It’s not in your face emotional. It captures the little, everyday things that change when something like this happens. The way people start to push you away, look at you differently, the excessive sympathy, the way people step aside because they don’t know how to react and how much that hurts. Your life becomes about the sickness and the care. Everything else loses its sway and you’d give anything to feel normal again. As someone who recently lost a family member to cancer, this was cathartic and therapeutic for me-I felt like someone understood and that mutual understanding is everything.

The story is broken into 3 sections, that are like 3 phases of processing and coming to terms with what happened. The first section of the book is slow. It drags quite a bit and I had to push through. Yes, I sympathized with the characters, it’s hard not to, but there wasn’t anything really exciting going on.

 Adrienne was a loud presence in the background but didn’t have a huge function in the story. Later in the book she becomes more present, but for the most part, she shouts some obscenities, insults people, lashes out, and does her own thing. I didn’t really like her much. Some of the things she off-handedly says rubbed me the wrong way. 

The romance is there. It doesn’t feel like instalove or a build up, it suddenly exists and somehow feels like it has always been there. There’s not fire or lust really, just shared understanding and seeing into each other’s deepest fears and desires and accepting them without question. 

The twist is sickening and shocking. The lengths, the lies, the pain that comes from something like this that can go one for ages before anyone notices…wow. 

What killed me, broke my heart into pieces and set them on fire, was little Marie. Her way of dealing with her mother’s sickness is to become obsessed with religious martyrs. It becomes her truth, her way of life, their prayers and actions are in everything she does and it makes her life hard. None of her peers understand her and despite having her sisters, she’s so alone. To think that she believes she could have changed things, it breaks me up inside. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Emotional reading, 

Jordan

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3 thoughts on “Review: Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin

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