Reviews

I'll Tell You in Person, by Chloe Caldwell

haileetaylor's review against another edition

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emotional funny reflective medium-paced

bookwormkez's review against another edition

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4.0

I'll Tell You In Person is the book I wish so desperately to write! Chloe's writing isn't anything special, but her experience is so unique and hilarious and relatable that I don't think it matters. I love how simply she crafts her imagery, how detailed and unpretentious it is. This book will probably stay with me for a long time and as someone who is still only 22, it makes me excited for all of the dumb shit that's still to come in my life as a young woman.

margotleibo's review against another edition

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funny reflective medium-paced

4.0

petersonline's review against another edition

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3.0

A friend and I recently started rewatching the show Girls, a show I hadn't watched since I was 14. Though very entertaining, the character of Hannah Horvath is a greatly insufferable personal essayist who often commits to the bit too much, being an asshole and getting herself into outlandish situations so that she can write about it later. When Girls became successful, it unleashed a sort of personal essay boom, one that seemed to subside about a year after the 2016 election. Around the time and in the wake of Girls, we saw essay collections like And The Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould, Not That Kind of Girl by, the queen of oversharing herself, Lena Dunham, and I'll Tell You in Person by Chloe Caldwell.

I'll Tell You in Person is a book that came out in 2016 but has been making the rounds on TikTok recently as being a book for "hot and sad girls", a genre that also includes novels like The Girls by Emma Cline and Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. My (maybe not so?) toxic trait is that I absolutely love novels that fall under this category. As an aspiring writer who has a tendency to overshare and has been severely Lana-pilled and gets a kick out of romanticizing unhealthy relationships and my past struggles with addiction, these writers always seem to understand me. In fact, I'll Tell You in Person was published by Emily Books, a publisher that specializes in publishing books for hot and sad girls (and gays).

I'll Tell You in Person, while an intriguing essay collection on the surface, ultimately falls flat because of how disjointed and often boring the book can be. Caldwell deftly controls the way she writes about her emotions and experiences, capably retelling stories while paying close attention to detail. The various misspellings and often plain sentence structure makes reading I'll Tell You in Person feel like reading someone's diary. However, it's unclear why many of these essays were grouped together in a book. At the end of some of them, you wonder what point Caldwell was trying to make. It's jarring to read a book like this after the "personal essay boom" feels like it's been over for a couple of years, because it's hard to remember that a book like this could be published back then. Some of the essays felt overwrought and dull, like "Failing Singing", which discussed Caldwell losing touch with her talent for singing that she had at a young age. In essays like that, I would reach the middle and find that I just didn't really care.

There are, however, some meaningful essays in this collection. The poignant "Sisterless" deals with Caldwell not having a sister, and looking to other women and girls in her life to fulfill that role. She babysits the child of her friend Cheryl (Strayed, author of the book Wild) and muses on other women in her life whom she has felt a sisterly connection to. Essays that deal with sexuality, like "The Girls of My Youth" and "The Laziest Coming Out Story You've Ever Heard" are good, but often don't stick their landing and left me feeling a bit cold. For more gayness, I'll probably have to check out Caldwell's novella, entitled "Women".

One of the essays in particular, entitled "Hungry Ghost", was lots of fun. She talks about planning a weekend away with an unnamed celebrity, whom Caldwell says is "somewhere on the spectrum between Eileen Myles and Beyonce" (I read that and was like, literally WHO could that be). As the story continues it becomes clear that the celebrity is Lena Dunham. Apparently Dunham cleared the essay before it was published, so Caldwell probably could have put her name in there if she had wanted to, but the mystery around the celebrity and Caldwell's friends reactions when they find out that she's spending the weekend with Lena Dunham add so much to a story that could have been filled with eye roll-inducing name-dropping. In that same vein, Caldwell remains a remarkably unpretentious narrator throughout much of these stories. She's often not self-centered, as most of these personal essayists often are, but I often found that I didn't know much about her after I finished these essays, it seemed that she held her cards pretty tight. Writing a good personal essay is about striking a balance between disastrous oversharing and leaving some things to the imagination.

I'll Tell You in Person was a solid essay collection, but not one that I'll be thinking about for a while. I'm interested to read more by Chloe Caldwell, but maybe something with a little more direction or central thesis.

lilawsahar's review against another edition

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3.75

I loved how it read like a diary or a conversation with a friend. I’ve never read a collection of personal essays but I love how Chloe’s book maybe me feel less alone. We are all struggling with something. 

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jennyingeneral's review against another edition

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3.0

I wish her writing were a little more polished and eloquent, but I loved the stories.

andersons1's review against another edition

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dark emotional funny lighthearted reflective fast-paced

3.5

kainatsu's review against another edition

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slow-paced

3.0

erikmartin023's review against another edition

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5.0

"I'm wearing camouflage shorts and black-and-gold Nike sneakers. I am lying on the floor with my legs over my backpack. My arm is over my face. My sneakers smelled. But I was almost home. I was getting closer to knowing what that meant."

It's strange to say that this book was nothing spectacular, yet still hit home for me. This one is a comfort for the people floundering in their 20's and not knowing how else to live. It's nostalgic and sad and hilarious. Thank you, Chloe :)

heatherks's review against another edition

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2.0

I do not think Chloe and I would get along