If You Tell has been all over my book groups, I feel like every three posts, someone is talking about this book, the hype is REAL. While I love going in knowing nothing about popular thrillers, it tends to be the opposite case for true crime, but between a quick skim of the summary to see if I knew this case and the sheer number of folks talking about it, I had to read it.
I have good and bad to say about this book, I want to make clear the bad is in no way about the case itself or what these victims endured.
I had never even heard of the case before reading this, despite years of consuming true crime books, articles, documentaries, and podcasts. Reading a case that was so new to me was probably the single driving factor that kept me reading. I needed to know the outcome of this horrific case. It is easily one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read, right up there with the Karin Slaughter books that haunt my brain, but what makes If You Tell worse is that it’s completely true.
I think it needs to be said that this book should be read with a MASSIVE trigger warning for every kind of abuse you can think of, but especially child abuse and torture of children and adults. I can usually breeze through a book in a day or two, but this book took me almost a week and a half to get through because I had to put it down and read something else because it was just so upsetting and triggering to read. I understand it’s a true account, but the way it is told and written there is little else in the book other than detailed accounts of torture and abuse.
The writing in this book is exceptionally confusing to me, it feels rough and unfinished, some chapters give little context or support to the rest of the story, making the whole book feel like these are written down notes that have just sort of been pasted together scrapbook-style. Unfortunately, I think the way it’s written and put together just adds to how difficult it was for me to get through. There were just so many missing elements to this book that left me confused and ultimately dissatisfied.
There are things that I think this book displays well though. For starters, the bond between these siblings despite the constant abuse, gaslighting, and being pitted against each other is remarkable in my opinion and it was really the shining light chapter after chapter that kept me caring about this story. I also think the book shows how and why people stay in abusive relationships and just how manipulative and controlling abusers can really be, even when you aren’t in the same home as them. It is easy to look at the siblings and question why they didn’t run away, didn’t call the police, didn’t do this or that, but I think people who question this maybe have never felt the full power or manipulation and abuse themselves. I encourage those people to approach it with more understanding and recognize that their abuser was their mother and their provider. That alone makes it an especially difficult situation to escape from as a child, let alone to even realize that is a possibility.
Overall, I wasn’t a fan of this book. It just was not for me. I’m not a fan of this level of gruesome. I know some people loved it, maybe you will too. I can’t tell you what you will and will not like so by all means, give the summary a look and decide for yourself.
Some resources if you or someone you love is being abused:
+ National Domestic Abuse Hotline (US): 1-800-799-7233
+ if you can’t call, you can chat online at thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474
+ Assaulted Women’s Helpline (Canada): 1-866-863-0511
+ Legal Aid Domestic Abuse Hotline (Canada): 1-800-668-8258
+ National Childhelp Abuse Hotline (US & Canada): 1-800-422-4453
+ Kids Help Phone (for kids to use, Canada): 1-800-668-6868
+ you can also text CONNECT to 686868