If You Tell by Gregg Olsen – Review

Summary from Amazon:

An Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestseller.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Gregg Olsen’s shocking and empowering true-crime story of three sisters determined to survive their mother’s house of horrors.

After more than a decade, when sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek hear the word mom, it claws like an eagle’s talons, triggering memories that have been their secret since childhood. Until now.

For years, behind the closed doors of their farmhouse in Raymond, Washington, their sadistic mother, Shelly, subjected her girls to unimaginable abuse, degradation, torture, and psychic terrors. Through it all, Nikki, Sami, and Tori developed a defiant bond that made them far less vulnerable than Shelly imagined. Even as others were drawn into their mother’s dark and perverse web, the sisters found the strength and courage to escape an escalating nightmare that culminated in multiple murders.

Harrowing and heartrending, If You Tell is a survivor’s story of absolute evil—and the freedom and justice that Nikki, Sami, and Tori risked their lives to fight for. Sisters forever, victims no more, they found a light in the darkness that made them the resilient women they are today—loving, loved, and moving on.


I read If You Tell as part of Amazon First Read’s November reading. As an Amazon Prime member each month, you can select a book from their provided list and read it for free.

For the most part I went into this book completely blind. I had no idea that these events actually happened. I know, I know. The description of the book says it’s a true crime story. The cover also says it’s a true story. Apparently I’m not a very trusting person, because I honestly thought that there was no way this was real.

I think a big part of why I thought this story was fiction was how the book was written. Gregg Olsen shares their story in a way that made me think that it was a sort of “mockumentary”. Not in a funny way though. It’s a very serious story. 

Maybe it’s because I don’t read books like these. I’m pretty exclusive to fiction and fantasy fiction stories. So, when I was so drawn into the story, I assumed it was fiction. He really builds these characters. You see Michelle “Shelly” Knotek grow from small child to abusive woman through the eyes of the people in her life.

Gregg Olsen expertly uses quotes from those he interviews throughout the book. I felt like I was watching a movie unfold. One moment I’d see these people going about their lives and then it would transition into someone getting interviewed. 

It was truly heartbreaking to see what the victims had to go through for so many years. It was also so baffling to see that it was allowed to happen for so long.

I became so emotionally involved with these people that about 40% into the book I had to do something I hate doing. Spoiling things for myself by going to Google. I remember thinking, “I really want Shane to get through this” and then went straight to Google to see if this was a real story. That’s the point where I discovered, yes this was indeed a true story. I let that realization settle in and continued on this dark journey.

It was really hard to see how people fell for Shelly’s tricks once I fully accepted that these events were real. However, I couldn’t stop reading. I kept turning (swiping) the pages until there was nothing left to read.

Despite the constant darkness the book has, there is a constant presence of hope. Hope to be free. Hope to continue a normal life. Hope to be able to move on from the terrors. It’s also a warning for others from her daughters. Shelly is supposed to be released from prison in 2022. Her family wants to make sure that no one else falls victim to the horrors that Shelly is capable of.


I was disgusted. I was shocked. I was sad. I was also (very mildly) impressed. It’s shocking that someone so cruel was able to control those in her life so well.

Fan of true crime or not, this book shouldn’t be skipped over.

4.5 out of 5 stars

What do you think? Have you already read the book or will you be picking it up? Are there any books you would like me to review? Let me know in the comment section below!

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Thank you for reading. Please be kind to one another and have a good day!

3 thoughts on “If You Tell by Gregg Olsen – Review”

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