“My name is Henrietta Sue Hoffman.”
And by the time I was done with Pine Valley, no one would ever forget who I was.
WOW!!! What an AWESOME book!!!! It was a total change of pace for me — a murder mystery rather than a romance novel — and I honestly loved it! It was incredibly well written, intricately plotted, and the way all the pieces of the story came together kept me glued to the page. I was really convinced that I’d figured out who the killer really was but the ending actually surprised me and I love when a book is able to do that!
I’m going to share the blurb here because it was actually what drew me to this book in the first place…
Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront… and she inches closer and closer to her death.
High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.
Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?
*** SPOILER-FREE REVIEW *** The story is told from three perspectives and the way they come together is downright fascinating, insightful, and mysterious. But one of the really interesting things to me about this book was that it wasn’t ‘thrilling’ or ‘scary’… like it wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat type of story at all to me, and yet I was still completely unable to put it down. It was INTERESTING. Engaging. It pulled me into the story and made me genuinely curious to see what would happen next and how everything would come together. And thankfully, the ending does in fact give you all the answers that you’re searching for throughout the book as the story unfolds.
“Girls didn’t get murdered for nothing, not in Wabash County. There were no drive-by shootings here, no angry boys unloading an arsenal inside the high school. All that crazy city shit was a world away from us, and that’s why a lot of the folks who lived here stayed… [Pine Valley was] a place stuck on the idea that people still mattered. Something certainly mattered enough to draw this girl out to the Erickson barn in the middle of nowhere. And whatever it was had also mattered enough to someone else to kill her over it…”
The three perspectives were each equally interesting to me. First, there was the victim — Hattie, a seemingly well-adjusted, happy teenage girl hiding a desperate desire for a life beyond her small town, and constantly playing whatever part she thought she needed to become to reach her goals.
“This was my first production.” If she could tell how uncomfortable i was, she didn’t show it. If anything, her smile only grew wider.
“You’re a natural. It’s like you’ve been acting your whole life.”
Then there was Del — the police officer in charge of her case. He was a veteran turned cop who’d seen it all, not to mention he’d known Hattie since she was born so he had both a personal and professional motivation to solve her murder. I found it especially fascinating to see how well he could read people and how he got them to reveal things they might otherwise keep to themselves.
“Doesn’t make sense.”
“No, it doesn’t. But most killers are stupid. And they don’t usually plan on killing anybody, so they don’t think about details.”
And finally, there was Peter — Hattie’s unhappy high school English teacher whose personal life and marriage were falling apart as his life spiraled rapidly in a direction he neither wanted nor could escape.
“Which one of them had the rage to kill her and then the gall to feel bad about it in the next breath?”
Lies, manipulation, innocent actions that lead to deadly consequences, impossible choices, love, hate, rage, revenge, everything had it’s part to play in this story. And everything had a consequence.
“Ordinary men commit extraordinary evil all the time. Trust me.”
I also think that this book would make a fantastic movie. I’m kinda hoping this becomes the next Girl On The Train phenomenon and gets a big movie deal because I’d totally go see this in theaters — even knowing the ending!
This author is new to me. I’ve never read her before, but after finishing this novel, I know for certain that I’ll be one-clicking whatever thriller or mystery she writes next because her writing is very strong and compelling and I’d love to read more stories from her!
As mentioned, it is quite rare for me to read this genre. I’m a romance reader at heart and I almost always crave reading my favorite genre but sometimes… sometimes I just need a chance of pace — a virtual palate cleanser — and in those cases I usually will go for a thriller or mystery. When I read the blurb for this, I was immediately intrigued by the story and as soon as I read the first chapter, I was hooked. And now having finished it, I can confidently say that I loved this book and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a great murder mystery novel!!
“No one will suspect… No one will know I’m yours.”
Rating: 4.5 stars. Standalone murder mystery novel.