I FINALLY read Tell Me Everything by one of my all-time favorite podcast hosts Sarah Enni and was very impressed. The story is compelling not just because of its messages about social media but because of the explorations of self and relationships.
YOUR SECRET’S SAFE … UNTIL IT’S NOT
Ivy is the shy artist type and keeps a low profile—so low that she’s practically invisible to everyone at Belfry High School except for her best friend, Harold. As sophomore year begins, Harold takes up a hundred activities, leaving Ivy on her own. Luckily she’s found a distraction: the new anonymous art-sharing app, VEIL.
Soon Ivy realizes that one of her classmates is the VEIL user who needs new paintbrushes … and another is the one visiting the hospital every week … and another is the one dealing with their parents’ messy divorce. While she’s too scared to put her own creations on the app, Ivy thinks of an even better way to contribute—by making gifts for the artists she’s discovered. The acts of kindness give her such a rush that, when Ivy suspects Harold is keeping a secret, she decides to go all in. Forget gifts—Ivy wants to throw Harold a major party.
But when all those good intentions thrust her into the spotlight, Ivy’s carefully curated world is thrown into chaos. Now she has to find the courage to come out of the shadows—about her art, her secrets, and her mistakes—or risk losing everything and everyone she loves the most.
Ohmygosh where do I begin with this one?
Let’s start with the biggie: social media. Boy does this book dig deep into social media. Over the course of a best friend-less and boring summer, our protagonist Ivy falls in love with VEIL, an app where users can anonymously upload and view poetry, photographs, paintings, songs, and other art within a 5 mile radius of their location.
When the new school year comes around Ivy finds herself accidentally discovering VEIL users’ identities in her school. As someone who is truly touched by what they upload, Ivy decides to perform random acts of kindness to show appreciation for those users, some of whom are dealing with conflicts like divorce and disease and using VEIL as an outlet for their emotions.
Except, things never work out well when you find out people’s secrets. Soon Ivy finds herself in the middle of conflicts with her art teacher, her best friends, her parents, and even the recipients of her acts of kindness- all due to VEIL. On top of Ivy’s personal issues with the app, someone uploads a homophobic message, causing a whole lot of external conflicts that go beyond Ivy’s personal relationship with VEIL.
I loved the examinations of VEIL and social media in general. As a high school librarian, I have students coming to me frequently with stories from social media: fake teacher accounts, photos and videos posted with the intention of embarrassing someone, nasty comments on Instagram, you name it. I’m a frequent user of Instagram and Snapchat so I love those platforms when they are used in a positive manner. But this is the internet we’re talking about, so there’s a lot of negative mixed in with the positive, and those are the posts and comments that tend to have a bigger, more serious impact on users. Tell Me Everything addresses the positive that Ivy feels as well as the negative repercussions, intended and unintended, of using the app. I think this part of the story was so well-developed and was approached with tact and relatability that will have a lasting impact on its readers.
I loved the character development in this debut. Ivy was such a relatable and real character to follow. So many of her intentions throughout the book were positive and well-meaning but the execution of some of her plans had negative consequences that ultimately shaped the plot and her character arc. Seeing her relationships form and change was a ride I was happy to be on. Friendships were tested, her relationship with her parents was not quite as it initially seemed, and Ivy’s relationship with herself was put to the test.
I wouldn’t call myself an artist or a hugely socially-awkward person, but I still found myself relating to Ivy’s inner dialogue, intentions, and feelings, and I think this overall relatability is what makes her such a great main character.
Now you may be wondering, “Rachel, if you liked this book so much why did you only give it 4 stars?”
Actually you probably weren’t wondering that but I’ll tell you anyway.
The book itself is short but some of the plot seems to drag on. I loved the plot, but I also loved the secondary characters and wanted them to have more page time. Just as I would start to get to know a character better we would go back to the social media plot and I would be distanced from them. I think the ratio of descriptive text to dialogue really contributes to this. I appreciate a good, immersive description… to a point. Then I start to get bored and I find myself wanting more interactions and actual talking, not just thinking. So, while I liked Ivy’s inner dialogue, could we also get some more external dialogue? Just a tiny bit more, please?
Besides these small complaints, I really would recommend this debut. There are so many relatable themes and conflicts addressed throughout the book that you or someone you love can relate to and learn from. Beyond that, the characters are fun, the writing style is funny and easy to follow, and the book itself is a relatively fast read.
Also, you should definitely give the author’s First Draft podcast a listen!
Until next time, happy reading 🙂