REVIEW: Thrilling novel set in Minnesota breaks stale ‘murder mystery’ mold


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High school senior Hattie Hoffman’s mysterious murder prompts those close to her to rethink their relationships with her.

Clare Tipler, Online Production Manager

Hot dish, hunting, ice fishing, and murder. One of these things is not like the others, yet they all describe small-town Minnesota life in Mindy Mejia’s latest novel “Everything You Want Me To Be.”

Mejia, who got her MFA from Hamline University and lives in the Twin Cities, writes a contemporary, plot- and character- driven novel reminiscent of “Gone Girl.” Like her first book, “The Dragon Keeper,” Mejia’s style is one of thrill and intrigue.

“Everything You Want Me To Be” was a page-turning thriller that hit close to home with teenager Hattie in the small-town Minnesota spotlight, until she is brutally murdered.

Hattie was murdered the opening night of her senior high play, in which she starred as Lady Macbeth. The ultimate question was who killed her and why, which seems simple enough. However, despite her popularity, it seemed nobody really knew Hattie. Here is where the title of the book comes in: Hattie, an actress, plays different parts for different people in her life. She was the beautiful girlfriend, the loving daughter, and the good student. Hattie appeared perfect, and yet something unexplainable happened, leading those close to her to wonder if they knew the real Hattie at all. And this becomes the central focus of the novel very quickly.

Hattie appeared perfect, and yet something unexplainable happened, leading those close to her to wonder if they knew the real Hattie at all.

The novel avoided a simple murder-mystery feel in several ways, most notably with its non-linear timeline. The story jumps between storytellers, times, and places; yet all of these perspectives form a cohesive and compelling story. Chapters jump from person to person and are from the perspectives of Hattie (the murderee), Del (the lead investigator), and Peter (the teacher). The book starts with pre-murder Hattie, but quickly jumps to post-muder Del, and then to some context from Peter’s point of view. Mejia keeps this up throughout the book, so reading whose perspective and when it is for each chapter is essential in understanding the plot.

The themes present allowed for a strong connection with each of the characters. These themes included lies, love, trust, innocence, coming-of-age, desperation, and responsibility. As Hattie is a high school senior in Minnesota, there was also a connection just because of circumstance.

Though not a groundbreaking novel by any means, Mejia does weave an interesting story and the book is hard to put down. Aimed at high schoolers and those older, “Everything You Want Me To Be” was an interesting take on the murder mystery. And to make it even better, there are several plot twists that were not predictable or stale.



4 out of 5 stars