Books Magazine

Book Review: Two Or Three Things i Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates

By Pamelascott





PAGES: 277


YEAR: 2001


There was no reason.

There were many reasons.

There came the razor blade between my fingers.

There came the current like electricity through my arm— through my fingers— directing the blade into the soft, yielding flesh of the inside forearm.

Why doesn’t matter.

How requires precision.


‘Merissa! Congratulations!’


I loved Two or Three Things I Forgot To Tell You. This is a YA book but I was barely aware of this as JCO sucked me right into the dark, disturbing world she created. Two or Three Things I Forgot To Tell You is JCO at her best. I love the title as well.

STRUCTURE: Two of Three Things I Forgot To Tell You is split into three sections. The first, Prologue: Tink deals with Merissa Carmichael, a high school senior who has been self-harming since her best friend Katrina (Tink) committed suicide six months before. As the pressures of her senior year mounts and her parents announce a divorce her cutting spirals out of control. II Tink Tink Tink Tink Tink Tink Tink Tink: A Scrapbook deals with Tink’s arrival at school, her friendship with Merissa and her friends, her suicide and the aftermath. The final section, III The Slut deals with Nadine, another of Tink’s friend and her crush on a teacher that goes horribly wrong. Like Merissa, she has been the most affected by Tink’s death. The chapters in each section are number and have a sub title (i.e. 1 Good News). Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You is written in the third person. I like thee three-act structure. I felt thought Merissa’s story wasn’t really resolved and ending with her still self-mutilating and I still had a lot of unanswered questions. The chapters are all quite short so I could read Two or Three Things I Forgot To Tell You fairly quickly.

PLACE: I found the world JCO creates in Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You was very realistic. She reminded me of how hard it is to be a teenager when you have to juggle so many things. I think people forget how hard it is to be a teenager as they get older. They look at the past with rose-tinted glasses and wish they could still have it so easy. They forget what it was really like to be a teenager when you’re not quite an adult and far from a child. I think JCO captures this perfectly. The teenage world she creates in Two or Three Things I Forgot To Tell You is frighteningly believable. I enjoyed Merissa’s story the most. I felt it had the most emotional impact. I can understand her need to self-harm. I’ve felt like cutting myself in the past to let some of the pressure out. I found Tink’s story heart-breaking. She seemed so confident and her suicide was a shock. Nadine’s story was more funny than sad. We’ve also had daft crushes on people and made a fool of ourselves. I thought it was sad when she was cyber-bullied when her crush and actions became public knowledge.

CHARACTERISATION: JCO created believable, flawed and human characters in Two or Three Things I Forgot To Tell You. The best characters were Merissa, Tink and Nadia. They were the most realistic portrayal of teenagers I’ve read in a long time. I liked Merissa the most. I could relate to her the most on a personal level. I could relate to the pressure she was under and her need to cut to let it all out. I never cut myself but the possibility crossed my mind more than once. I can see where she’s coming from. I felt sorry for Tink. She had been a successful child actress and her mother was a famous actress. I got the impression she didn’t have much of a life. I actually cried when she killed herself. I also found Nadine a very real character. She wasn’t popular and was flattered by Tink’s friendship. Everyone wanted to be friends with Tink. Nadine was quite chubby and awkward. She reminded me a lot of myself when I was a teenager. I was impressed by how realistic the characters were. JCO perfectly capture the struggles of being a teenager.

PLOT: JCO was brave when she wrote Two or Three Things I Forgot To Tell You. She tackles some pretty dark subject matter. The overall plot deals with Tink’s suicide and the impact this has on her two closest friends, Merissa and Nadine. Merissa self-harms and is clearly suicidal. She thinks she hears Tink speaking in her head and feels her presence around her. It’s rare for a writer to tackle the subject of suicide. I can’t think of another novel I’ve read that deals with this. Tink is clearly very messed up and depressed. More controversial issues. Nadia is offered drink by some boys in school and there is the impression she had sex with them all. Her intense crush on a teacher spirals out of control and almost loses him his job. JCO offers nothing particularly original with Two of Three Things I Forgot To Tell You but she offers something emotionally deep, realistic and moving.




Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates


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