A twisty mystery about a teenage girl brutally killed in small-town Minnesota, “Everything You Want Me to Be” is a page-turner.
Author Mindy Mejia tells of the murder of a 17-year-old on opening night of her high school play. The book jacket, which depicts a close-up of a coy-looking girl, is reminiscent of “The Good Girl” by Mary Kubica, another novel that’s set in Minnesota and lives up to the description of “twisty.”
Mejia’s novel is told from three alternating points of view. Hattie is the teenager who wants to cut loose from her small town and move to the Big City. Peter is the high school English teacher whom she ends up falling for, and Del is the likable archetypal small-town sheriff who tries to solve Hattie’s murder after her body is found in an abandoned barn. The three voices are distinct and compelling.
Peter and his wife have recently moved to Pine Valley so his wife can take care of her ailing mother. Although Peter is Hattie’s English teacher, the two initially connect anonymously online through a shared love of literature and disdain for small-town life. Hattie sees a future for them in New York City, and tries to persuade Peter to leave his wife.
Mejia does a good job of showing us how human connections can spin out of control. She also manages to make Peter sympathetic and keep the reader in suspense about who killed Hattie. By skillfully spreading suspicion over a few different characters, Mejia has made this novel a page-turner.
Rebecca Kanner is the author of “Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife” and “Esther.” She teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
Everything You Want Me to Be
By: Mindy Mejia.
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 340 pages, $26.99.
Events: 7 p.m. Jan. 5, Magers & Quinn, Mpls.; 7 p.m. Jan. 12, Once Upon a Crime, Mpls.; 7 p.m. Feb. 3, Barnes & Noble, Galleria, Edina; 7 p.m. Feb. 10 (with Jane Hamilton, Julia Claiborne Johnson and the Chowgirls), Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, $10.