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Tell Me Something Real

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,015 ratings  ·  245 reviews
Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel.

There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of
304 pages
Published August 30th 2016 by S&S/Atheneum
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Calla Devlin One of the sisters, Adrienne, is fairly foul-mouthed with inventive profanity. There is a love story, but it's not sexually explicit. …moreOne of the sisters, Adrienne, is fairly foul-mouthed with inventive profanity. There is a love story, but it's not sexually explicit. (less)

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Average rating 3.64  · 
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 ·  1,015 ratings  ·  245 reviews

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C.G. Drews
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
So this book totally surprised me. In a really really good way! I went in expecting a contemporary about (A) a pianist, (B) epic sisterly bonds, and (C) a parent dying of cancer. So yes, it was all those things + fantastic plot twists that had me reeling! It was so good. aLL THE GOOD.

My favourite thing about this is: SISTERRRRS. I love books about sisters. I have 4 of them and they're all annoying so I like to read about epic fictional sister who spontaneously go out for ice cream. (No one spont
Larry H
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
The beautiful, blonde Babcock sisters—brash, confident, artistic Adrienne; sensitive, musical Vanessa; and the youngest, devoutly religious Marie—are growing up in San Diego in 1976. The Babcocks struggle with the same problems many families do—their father works too much and gets bullied by his boss, Vanessa doesn't practice the piano as much as she should, and Adrienne spends a little too much time mouthing off.

But what sets the Babcocks apart is sadness. Their mother has leukemia, and her dec
Elyse  Walters
"It was like I had to pretend that I wasn't sick to make them feel okay".

"Sometimes we have to wait, especially when things are difficult and a lot is happening at once". This is why I needed time to tell you about......"

The entire novel is great....
.....complex surprising 'substantial' storyline. It's not a story with an explosive beginning...yet the our minds start spinning and forming opinions right away about the characters. As soon as you think you know the basic 'theme'
Book Riot Community
This story is so incredibly specific that it completely sucked me in. From the details about the characters to the time to the setting everything felt real and captivating. The story follows the three blond, beautiful Babcock sisters through a San Diego summer in 1976. Their mother is dying of leukemia and travels, with them, to Mexico often to receive an experimental treatment. I thought I’d fall in love with the story because of the sister relationship (definitely my genre kryptonite!), but in ...more
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy books about family dynamics with shocking twists and turns!
Recommended to Maria by: Simon & Schuster Canada

This ARC was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin is one of those books that would have completely flown right by my radar if I hadn’t been offered the opportunity to read and review it through Simon and Schuster Canada. I had never heard of this novel previously, but the synopsis totally had me intrigued and I just knew that I had to read it.


Tell Me Something Real tells the story of three sisters who are
I was really liking this at the beginning. The writing is lovely and lush, and the girls are depicted well. But immediately, I wondered...why is this set in the 1970s? And when the twist of the story emerged, suddenly the reason for that time period made sense and pissed me off as a reader who hates (view spoiler). I felt cheated and it was a cheap choice in writing.

After the twist and putti
Emotional Hell Ride.
That sums up this read for me. I was dragged down one road sobbing and heart broken only to be slammed into the wall of extreme anger, disbelief and then sorrow. I devoured this torturous read in one day. I couldn't leave the story at any point, it left me dangling off a cliff through the whole book. I read this yesterday, today I feel hungover and tired. The daily pain of these characters lives was draining. Then to find out.... I tell you it was so twisted. I wanted to thr
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
Tell Me Something Real is a story about coping. Coping as an individual and coping within the family. The book is told from Vanessa’s perspective, the middle child to a mother dying of leukemia forced to manage responsibilities she shouldn’t have to manage at her age.

At the beginning of the book, I thought it was going to be a knock off of The Fault in our Star by John Green. Both stories have similar elements: cancer, overly mature young adults, and a budding romance. However, Tell Me Something
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yallwest-2016
Tell Me Something Real is a good book, but ultimately forgettable. I never felt particularly affectionate toward any of our character, especially Caleb. I (as usual) did not fall for the instalove between Caleb and Vanessa, and even less so when I realized that Caleb was supposed to be Vanessa's rock in the typhoon of her life.

I liked the twist and normally would have been gushing about it in my review, but it felt too detached. I didn't feel like Vanessa was actually experiencing what was suppo
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Many of my GR friends raved about this one.

.......Ugh. I was bored. Abandon ship??

But my GR friends REALLY liked it. Stay on ship!

.......YES! It turned around, picked up & smacked me in the face. (In a good way). My GR friends never let me down. ❤️
Lolly K Dandeneau
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
"I feel like a scavenger, a young raccoon, rummaging for scraps of motherly affection."

The three Babcock sisters are coping with their mother’s illness in different ways. For the vibrant beautiful outspoken Adrienne, pious, sweet little Marie and quietly shy Vanessa everything they thought they knew about their long suffering mother’s disease is going to wither and fall away when she decides to help a fellow cancer patient Caleb. When Caleb and his mother move in, it is a welcome change from the
Trang Tran (Bookidote)
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This novel completely surprises me in a very good and unexpected way. And somehow relate to me personnally too. We follow the Babcok sisters, three beautiful blonde girls with different personalities who are trying to cope with their mother's growing leukemia.

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The whole story is about coping, an important theme that is being dissected in this novel and the reason why I think EVERYONE should read it. Vanessa is the middle child and also the narrator-it gives a childish voice to the st
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: work
Beware, this book is not what you're expecting, this is not just a YA novel regarding cancer coping. A lot more happens and not one of you will see it coming. Not gonna say anymore to avoid spooling it.
The idea behind this book has sooo much potential, could have easily reached a higher rating which it sadly didn't because of the instant-love and unlikely proceedings.
I really liked the characters though, the sisters are really fun and I love their interactions. This book reminded me an awful l
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
It seems at first like Fault of the Stars but the twists and turns transform the story line. The family of three girls are coping with their mother's cancer and their father's need to work at a time when they should be enjoying a childhood. I read it in a day, could not but it down. ...more
Mrs. Europaea
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Really weird mash up of plot and themes. It seems like this should have been two books instead the author forced it all into one. Would have been better as two, this came off as incomplete and jarring. Yes, sometimes life happens suddenly but the way the author executed this was poor.
Reviews May Vary
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: z2017read
3.5 I'm so glad this turned out to be more than the first love romance between this girl and her sick boyfriend. I'm glad I got over the hump. But it's one of those books you really can't think too deeply about. ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
From reading the inside cover I wasn't surprised at all by the twist, but I enjoyed this book nonetheless. ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book! I listened to the audiobook from the library because the eArc has been on my shelf for for over 3 years. This is the story of Vanessa, her two sisters, her sick mom and her dad. It's about controversial cancer treatments in Mexico, about first loves, about discovering there are worst illnesses than cancer, and about the struggle to separate and chase our dreams. A very interesting book to read after Darling Rose Gold. ...more
I was interested in reading this because it was nominated for William C. Morris award - I made a conscious decision to read all the nominees after having a lot of luck with nominees from years past (ie. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and Seraphina) - but was unfortunately disappointed.

Vanessa is the middle child of a three sister unit. She's been dealing with her mother's cancer diagnosis which has led the family to travel to a clinic in Mexico that offers treatment that's ban
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

this was not what i expected at all, but i adored it! the mc is so relatable and i loved how she was true to herself throughout everything. plus her fierce loyalty to her family is something that i think most people can understand and relate to.

it was VERY plot twist-y, i mean i knew something was happening.... just not this.

overall a solid read, with some cute moments and some tough ones as well- but i'd highly recommend.
Sarah Amelia
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Thank you to the publisher for giving me a advanced readers copy of this book. That has in no way influenced my rating.

My oh my.... I have no idea of how to rate this book. Maybe 2.5 stars...? My rating system has 2 stars as being pretty bad and 3 stars as really enjoying the book but not being blown away. Yeah, definitely 2.5 stars. I can't decide if I enjoyed it some or disliked it. That's how indifferent I am about it. Because honestly it have some good parts but other parts just didn't work
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is the summer of 1976. The three Babcock sisters, who live in San Diego, spend much of their time traveling to Mexico with their mother, who is receiving Laetrile, an experimental treatment for her leukemia that is illegal in the USA. Though each of the girls is different, they are bonded by concern for their mother. While at the clinic, Vanessa befriends Caleb, a young man who is also undergoing treatment at the clinic. To make it easier on his family, Caleb and his mother move in with the B ...more
This book's cover is not doing it any favors. I picked it up at the library because I vaguely remembered hearing some positive buzz about it. I liked some aspects of it, and read it in one fell swoop between work and dinner. It's engaging and all. But even without knowing there was supposed to be a twist (which it says on the jacket), I caught on pretty early as to what that twist would be. And as someone who was a kid in 1976, I felt that while the clothing might have been described accurately, ...more
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This story is so incredibly specific, from the details about the time and setting to the characters. I thought I would love it most for the sister relationships and lyrical writing, but then the plot ended up being my favorite part. The romance was pretty swoon-worthy too.
Sep 12, 2019 marked it as to-read
a book set in my hometown??
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it
That just wasn’t expected!!
I liked the book the unexpected twist to the story!! But god I felt bored!!!!! the character development was kinda slow & almost non existent.. I also didn’t feel a thing for any of the characters or what they felt.. no less it worth the read
Lisa (brandnewbooksmell)
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
This wasn’t at all what I expected ... and for THAT reason it gets a full 4 stars! I loved the characters ... especially the three girls. I almost want a sequel. 😁
Kathryn Gullo
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Yes, another sick kid book. Though sick kid is secondary in this tale about Vanessa caring for her mom who has cancer. It felt a little disjointed, but the second half was intriguing and difficult.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what to say about this book without spoiling anything. Just read it.


"Just allow yourself to feel right now. You don't have to understand it. That will come later. It may never come, honestly. Just play the piano. it's the best thing you can do."


"It's from On the Road. 'Nothing behind me. Everything ahead of me.'"
"Everything is behind be," I say. "Everything."
Michal Lynn
I feel like this is a book I'll be thinking about for a while. More thoughts to come soon.

11/19: This book is difficult to review without getting into spoilers, so I'm going to try my darndest to get my thoughts out and hide the spoilers for anyone who hasn't read it but is interested in reading it.

I honestly don't know if I would've read this book if I didn't know that there was a lot more to the concept (three daughters focused on their leukemia-stricken mother) than what is presented. The bo
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Contemporary YA: Tell Me Something Real 1 15 Nov 01, 2016 10:46AM  

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Calla Devlin is the author of Tell Me Something Real, a finalist for the PEN Literary Award, finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award, and International Literacy Literary Award Honor, and Right Where You Left Me. A Pushcart nominee and winner of the Best of Blood and Thunder Award, her stories have been included in numerous literary journals and anthologies.

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