Though coverage of Knotek and her crimes was not as sensational or well publicized as other similar cases, the details are equally horrific. Providing her three daughters, as well as other family members, a platform to share their memories and emotions sets If You Tell apart from traditional true-crime stories ... the aim is far from behavioral analysis, and readers are left to try to understand Shelly’s motivations as a child and especially as an adult when her abuse of others turned deadly ... Shelly named her three daughters Nikki, Sami and Tori. The real heart of the book is their resilience and strength throughout years of terrible abuse, including the suffering of Shelly’s other victims, which they witnessed and were often forced to be a part of ... The details of the abuse and crime are almost unbelievable. The power of sisterhood (not to mention the unconditional love of Lara toward the three sisters) on display here is amazing and inspiring. Olsen gives Nikki, Sami and Tori the space on the page to unpack, explain and wrestle with their feelings for their mother. It is fascinating to witness as a reader ... those looking for analysis of the criminal mind or legal procedural details won’t find them here. Still, If You Tell accomplishes what it sets out to do. The result is a compelling portrait of terror and a powerfully honest, yet still sensitive, look at survival.
The details are appalling but it is even more outrageous that Shelly gets away with it for years mostly because her daughters are terrified of her even after moving away. Olsen presents the story chronologically and in a simple, straightforward style, which works well: it is chilling enough as is.
Not for the squeamish, the narrative chronicles how the girls endured beatings, bleach baths, and verbal abuse, at the same time shedding light on how and why Shelly’s family bowed to her tyranny for years ... This riveting account will leave readers questioning every odd relative they’ve known.