Not Faking My Ambivalence: 'Tell Me Something Real' Blog Tour

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tell Me Something Real

Author: Calla Devlin
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Family
Publisher: S&S/Athenum
Page Number: 304

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…

How does cancer affect different people? Well, in the patient, there is pain and loss and grief. They lose their hair and different aspects of their lives. Students have a tough time going to school. Adults have a tough time going to work.
But what about the family members? They're affected too.

Family is important. I always respect books that show families, positively or negatively. Families exist for many people. This book showed an intricate family system. The dad was too busy. The eldest daughter was artistic but acted out. The middle daughter was quite and caring. The youngest daughter was hyper but obsessed with dead saints. And the mom was sick. It had a lot of different types of people within the story. The story revolved around these completely different people and how their lives were woven together.
And when everything fell apart, family was there. It was a different take on the family situation, and it was handled well. The family might have been broken, but they stuck together.

There was a lot of real elements in this book. The fear of death is one thing. It's not really explored since the girls aren't dying themselves, but the threat of a possible death is there. It's omniscient. And the girls' reactions feel real. They're scared, but they pretend that they're okay.

Cancer is something that exists. We hate that it does, but there is no cure yet. It's scary and hard to understand. The book portrayed cancer and its side effects accurately. There are hair loss and dizziness and lack of energy. That's something I'm figuring out pretty fast. (Don't worry. I don't have cancer. But someone I know does.)

Love can ruin lots of books. And it does in this book. The love interest helps support Vanessa at times, but he seems redundant. This could have been a story about families and siblings. Sure, Caleb didn't play a huge role in general, but enough scenes were dedicated to Vanessa and Caleb's interactions. The introduction of Caleb's mother Barb did set a lot of the plot points in motion, though, so he was a necessary evil.

I didn't feel any love towards this couple. They weren't very appealing.

The when and where of a book can change the entire tone. A witch hunt in Salem in the 1690s seems common, but a witch hunt in the middle of Manhattan in the 2010s seems unlikely. Throughout the book, I thought it was set in the present day. The music seemed a bit older, but I thought it was because someone liked the oldies.

This implies that the setting wasn't of huge importance, but I say otherwise. Laetrile could have never been invented in one decade or even used in the US in another. There just wasn't enough about the time period.


Calla Devlin is a Pushcart nominee and winner of the Best of Blood and Thunder Award whose stories have been included in numerous literary journals and in anthologies, including Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond, for which she was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Magazine. 

Tell Me Something Real is her first book.

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