I just finished reading Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. In addition to the delicious, cute appeal of heart-shaped waffles on the cover, there are some great sentences tucked inside this story. I gathered and compiled some of the greatest. Keep in mind, this post does contain spoilers.
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Page 24 – 25
The main character, Jessie Holmes, is reflecting on her mother’s death. Her mother used to leave poetry books around the house, randomly. Jessie never asked her mother why she had done this and they never discussed the poetry that decorated the home. All of the questions she never asked poke around her mind, regrettably.
“What’s left feels like something manufactured. The overexposed ghosts of memories.”
This quote is a meaningful one and attempts to touch the subject of how final death is and the post-state that leaves loved ones wishing for communication and all those questions, wonderings, to be answered.
One of the poems that is referenced in Tell Me Three Things is T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. The first sentence of the poem is “April is the cruellest month.” Jessie and her English partner must decipher the poem and they are stuck at the beginning. Internal monologue leaves Jessie reflecting on how cruel she believes all the months have been to her, especially as her father and her moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, moving in with his brand new wife. The month is presently September and the school year, unfortunately, has only just begun.
“A new year and not a new year at all. Both too early and too late for resolutions and fresh starts.”
At this point, the calendar year is more than halfway complete. While the school year starts out rough, Jessie later develops a comforting attitude toward school and eventually finds her place.
Jessie misses her mother dearly. At various points in the book, Jessie seems to re-hear some of her mother’s pieces of advice and frequent quotes. They pop into her mind at the perfect time, when Jessie needs to realize, accept them most.
“…but for one easy second, she’s right here with me: ‘Other people can’t make you feel stupid. Only you can.'”
Jessie’s new LA school is unlike her school back in Chicago. They are two entirely different campuses and she finds it a struggle to make friends, especially when some of the popular students fail to recognize her existence or are either obsessed with ruining her day. These words from her mom crawl back into her mind, reminding that it isn’t the actions of other people that should make us feel stupid, only we can do that in how we act, respond, move forward.
Jessie’s first real friend at her new California school is a girl named Adrianna or Dri for short. Dri’s crush happens to be a co-worker of Jessie’s at a local bookstore. His name Liam, Dri loves hearing all the details about him.
“Details allow you to pretend that you actually know the person who you obsess over, even though you don’t know them at all.”
This quote is powerful and to an extent, relatable. In real life, we all think we know the people we speak with, have a friendship or relationship with, and feel like we have a connection to. But everyone isn’t always as they seem. People can come with their own secrets and motives, displaying to the world a fabricated representation of their true self. Our minds have the habit of playing tricks on us.
Page 182 – 183
Jessie is Ethan’s English partner and who she spends a lot of time with in a coffee shop, attempting to decipher The Waste Land. They begin discussing the phrase, “A rose is a rose is a rose” which was first coined by Gertrude Stein.
“Ethan looks at me and waits a beat. He’s comfortable with silence, I realize. He’s comfortable with everything. Ethan is Ethan is Ethan.”
Ethan was a bit mysterious to Jessie from the first moment they met. As the story progresses, they begin to open up to each other more. What Jessie once considered odd about Ethan, she finds appealing now. She has begun to decode Ethan, knowing his personality, his response and behavior to the world and people around him.
Jessie’s step-mother surprises her with a plane ticket to return home and see her friends for the weekend. Excited as can be, Jessie recalls memories and one of their favorite pizzerias to dine at.
“…Scarlett will pick me up from the airport and drive us straight to DeLucci’s and we will order two slices of pizza each and Diet Cokes in big frosted glasses, and all of our shared history, our lifetime of inside jokes, will come alive again across their dingy folding tables.”
Scarlett was Jessie’s best friend in Chicago, their friendship tested after being miles and miles, states and states away. Those we come in contact with and build a friendship, relationship with, we begin to associate certain places and spaces with them. These places are special, representative, and full of memory.
Jessie uprooted her life from Chicago to LA, which was not only a massive change of scenery, but it was also a swap of lifestyle and people.
“Blue skies, short sleeves, every day. A breeze so slight, it tickles.”
Jessie describes the weather patterns of LA and opposite temperature, skies, and wardrobe to her beloved Chicago. I enjoy this sentence because of its delicate, short and sweet description. With the breezes that have been fluttering the trees outside my window where I live, I could really imagine and feel the depiction of the breeze.
Jessie has a crush on her English partner, Ethan. He seems present and sometimes not, distant as he stares out the nearby window of wherever they are. Something seems to pull his attention away whenever they’re together.
“He’s more like me, I think: burdened with the realization that what goes on in his mind is somehow different from what goes on in everyone else’s. Even those closest to us.”
Near the conclusion of the story, Jessie discovers a secret about Ethan. Similar to Jessie, he also lost a family member. To this day, it continues to take a toll on Ethan in the form of peering aimlessly out the window, sleepless nights, and just the persistent feeling of emptiness.