by Nora McClintock
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers

At A Glance
Interest Level

Reading Level
Number of Pages

David isn’t sad that his stepfather is dead. However, he didn’t expect to become the prime suspect of his murder. The detective investigating the case is convinced that David is keeping secrets—and he’s right. David knows the truth about his stepfather’s death. But can he convince the police that he’s not guilty of shooting his stepfather and leaving him to die?

Tell, published by Orca Book Publishers, is specifically written for teens who want to read short, high-interest novels.  The story focuses on David and his struggles with his stepfather, Phil. The easy-to-read story shows the harsh realities of life without going into graphic descriptions. Even though David tells his own story, the mystery of his stepfather’s death leaves the reader wondering if David is actually the murderer.

The suspenseful story has a dark undertone. David struggles with his brother’s death, his mother’s deceit, and his stepfather’s manipulation. As David interacts with his mother, her uncaring and lying nature becomes obvious. In the end, Tell shows that sometimes the monsters in people’s lives are the ones living under their own roof. The sad ending can lend itself to some good discussion between parent and child.

Sexual Content

  • None


  • David’s brother, Jamie, “drowned when he was eight years old.”
  • David thinks Phil intentionally let his brother die. David said, “Phil could have saved him. Phil was right there. He was a good swimmer. He could have saved Jamie, but instead, he did nothing.”
  • After Phil goes to an ATM, a man approaches him. “Phil shoved him away and swore at him. He turned away from the guy. Then I saw the guy take out a gun. He pointed it at Phil . . . The guy shot him.” When David approached Phil, “he was making a sort of gurgling sound . . . Then Phil stopped making that noise. . . and I ran.” David didn’t get Phil help because Phil didn’t help his brother.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Throughout the story, people talk about how David’s stepfather would drink beer. Sometimes he goes to the bar and drinks. He would also play poker with his friends and they would drink beer.
  • David said that Phil carried the picture of his dead brother around because “he got a lot of sympathy from it. One time he told me he got a lot of free drinks too . . .”
  • Jack, a friend of David’s mother, “took a quick gulp of beer” while he was talking to Dave. Jack is also seen drinking beer several times in the story.


  • Profanity is used a few times. “Ass” is used once. “Damn” and “pissed” are each used twice. When Phil gets home from work, his stepson would act up, which “really pissed Phil off. . . “
  • A character said Phil could be a “jerk.” Later, David said he “wanted his mom to know what kind of jerk she married.”
  • Phil calls David a “pain in the ass.”
  • “Oh my god” is used as an exclamation once.


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None


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