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Tell Me Everything


Tell Me Everything

If it’s been a while since you were in college, it might be easy to forget just how intense those first few days and weeks on campus can be, and how quickly friendships are made, many of which last for a lifetime. In her debut novel, TELL ME EVERYTHING, Cambria Brockman effectively illustrates those heady, nerve-wracking first days of collegiate freedom --- and then goes on, over the next 300+ increasingly tense pages, to raise questions in readers’ minds as to whether or not these fast friendships are as genuine and heartfelt as they appear.

At the center of the book is Malin, a high-achieving pre-law student who arrives at elite Hawthorne College in Maine eager to escape her native Texas --- and the family secrets and tragedy that she fears will haunt her wherever she goes.

"Brockman uses her suspenseful novel to shed light on the insularity of the college experience, especially at a small, rural school like Hawthorne."

Almost immediately, Malin finds herself in the company of British drama queen (and, appropriately enough, theater major) Gemma, showily wealthy and charismatic Khaled, and --- most gratifyingly for Malin --- Ruby. Ruby is the kind of young woman everyone wants to befriend. Pretty, smart and good at soccer, Ruby draws people to her seemingly without effort, a talent that is mystifying to Malin. But much to Malin’s surprise, Ruby seems to prefer her company above everyone else’s, and the two are best friends almost from the start.

Their small group is rounded out by Max and John, who are cousins but couldn’t be less alike. Max is a pre-med student, high-achieving but prone to anxiety and panic attacks, and more than a little socially awkward. John, on the other hand, is all charisma and swagger --- his ambitions focus on maintaining the luxurious lifestyle in which he’s been raised, and he’s more than a little bit of a bully. When John and Ruby strike up an intense romance right at the beginning of freshman year, no one is convinced it will last --- and only Malin is privy (partly due to her habit of reading passages from Ruby’s diary) to just how dark and damaging their relationship is behind the scenes.

The story of this group’s time at college plays out in parallel narratives --- one that recounts how they met and the relationships that developed from those initial meetings during freshman year, and one, much darker, that watches ominous and perhaps even tragic events unfold during tradition-laden “Senior Day” in the middle of their final year at Hawthorne. On top of this is layered an additional narrative --- of Malin’s childhood with her parents and her troubled older brother, Liam --- the resolution of which sheds light, in sometimes surprising ways, on Malin’s character and on how she chooses to approach her college career.

TELL ME EVERYTHING might be a darker, more sinister version of college than most of us (hopefully) experienced. Nevertheless, Brockman uses her suspenseful novel to shed light on the insularity of the college experience, especially at a small, rural school like Hawthorne. She also vividly illustrates the lengths to which many (if not all) college students go in order to reinvent themselves as they make a fresh start in a new environment. Almost everyone here is hiding something behind their earnest, intellectual, forward-looking veneers --- and some secrets are darker than others.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 9, 2019

Tell Me Everything
by Cambria Brockman