Review: Tell Me My Name

The Great Gatsby and I go back a long way, so as soon as I knew the author of the fantastic and underrated The Nowhere Girls was gearing up to write a modern reinterpretation, I wanted in.

This post was originally published on The Nerd Daily.

On wealthy Commodore Island, Fern is watching and waiting–for summer, for college, for her childhood best friend to decide he loves her. Then Ivy Avila lands on the island like a falling star. When Ivy shines on her, Fern feels seen. When they’re together, Fern has purpose. She glimpses the secrets Ivy hides behind her fame, her fortune, the lavish parties she throws at her great glass house, and understands that Ivy hurts in ways Fern can’t fathom. And soon, it’s clear Ivy wants someone Fern can help her get. But as the two pull closer, Fern’s cozy life on Commodore unravels: drought descends, fires burn, and a reckless night spins out of control. Everything Fern thought she understood–about her home, herself, the boy she loved, about Ivy Avila–twists and bends into something new. And Fern won’t emerge the same person she was.

An enthralling, mind-altering psychological thriller, Tell Me My Name is about the cost of being a girl in a world that takes so much, and the enormity of what is regained when we take it back.

TW: racism, drug use, infidelity, sexual assault, child abuse, addiction, schizophrenia

My Thoughts:

Tell Me My Name is a brilliant, thought-provoking tale with elements of both the contemporary and mystery genres shining through. It places a fresh new spin on the tale it draws inspiration from, creating a book that is pertinent and relevant for today’s audience. 

This is a book all about getting in. It centres around a world steeped in immense wealth and privilege, while also exposing the hollowness and isolation of it all. Like Fitzgerald before her, Reed exposes the darker side of this really well, with a greater focus on the corruptive nature of privilege. This is not a book that carbon copies the original and that makes it all the better. Instead, Reed uses the familiar echoes and beats of the classic, but reworks them through a completely different lens that’s updated for a modern audience. 

There’s a clear sense of the bubble of privilege that shelters and allows for ignorance to grow. In the backdrop of Reed’s setting, there’s atrocious realities being hinted at, but wealth allows for a certain few to gloss over them. The gap between this fantasy and reality is portrayed so well, giving you this uneasy and almost sickening feel the entire time. You know that the money being poured into this glamorous lifestyle comes from some sort of murky place, but you’ll have to wait to find out the whole truth. 

A key theme of the book is mental health and the lasting effects of trauma. This felt well-developed and played out. There’s surprising elements to this theme, but it never feels like they’re just cheap reveals for the sake of it. Rather, it feels more nuanced and thought out, delving into a fractured and complex psyche. 

Reed’s writing style is just gorgeous. She perfectly walks the line between realism and more flowery prose. It’s descriptive and utterly immersive, but never feels like too much. It’s that sort of measured decadence that characterises the entire story and feels like a knowing nod to the classic tale. Here, it becomes an authentic conversation between the reader and Fern. She was a clear highlight of the book, with a great voice that really drew me in. A lot of the characters are deeply flawed and unlikable, but that’s an interesting change to the rest of the market. You can appreciate their complexity and they’re certainly not two-dimensional caricatures, but they make awful decisions and are often influenced by their bubbled mindset. It’s refreshing to actually be able to dislike certain characters and indeed be invited to by the author, but also learn to understand them. Reed makes it clear that this does not absolve them, instead it just paints a bigger picture that’s rich in detail and scope. 

The central mystery is very cleverly done. Reed paces everything to a tee. You get sucked into this decadent world and slowly uncover the true events. The twists are well-executed and genuinely shocking. It’s like watching a jigsaw slowly piece together in that once you finish, you’ll want to race right back to the start and marvel at all Reed’s little hints. 

Tell Me My Name is a captivating, unexpectedly emotional story that digs deep into the bones of the classic tale and revitalises them with a poignant and necessary story for today. Reed captures the very essence of The Great Gatsby, yet this is a tale that stands on its own two feet.

7 thoughts on “Review: Tell Me My Name

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