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Mindy Mejia’s knockout novel, Everything You Want Me to Be, operates in three main voices and is a strong read to start the New Year.

Hattie Hoffman is a high school senior in a small Minnesota farming town. Brimming with talent in acting, a chameleon who takes on the role of the moment, she’s poised to begin a new life in New York after graduation. Her manipulation of those around her is born out of her natural ability to be what she needs to be in any given situation. We see her story unfold in events that lead up to the current time.

Peter Lund is an English teacher from the city, thrust into the rural farm town of Pine Valley when his wife moves back home to care for her ill mother. He manages to find a teaching job and Hattie is one of his prize students. But vegetarian Peter can’t adjust to the many sides of farm life, and his marriage starts to fall apart.

Del Goodman is the town’s sheriff, a man who’s best friend is Hattie’s father, and who takes his job seriously. A divorced Viet Nam vet who has made a life of loneliness, he will soon face his most important and heartbreaking investigation: finding Hattie’s murderer after her body is found stabbed and mutilated.

In a small town, everyone knows everyone’s secrets, and if they don’t, they’ll make one up. Distorted truths soon get in Del’s way, and the investigation suffers for it. Then DNA results seem to point to Hattie’s killer, but Del isn’t convinced. Just when the reader thinks they’ve figured out the obvious suspect, another character will appear to have a better motive and the story twists back on itself.

Small town life and the rural setting are evocatively drawn, but the stars here are the way Mejia gets inside the minds of these three characters and builds suspense as the story shifts between the current investigation and the events of the previous year that led up to the tragedy.

A first-rate mystery from a writer whose name will be on many lists this year and earns Auntie M’s first Highly Recommended rating of the year~

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