Welcome to my inaugural book review.
Lately, I’ve been on an author kick. When I find one that I enjoy, I seek out every book that they’ve written and make it my goal to read as many of their works as possible. This is in part because I’ve established a relationship with their voice and style, though a small part of me wants to be well-read. There’s a subtle shame to only knowing one book intimately out of a well-known author’s entire collection, as I soon discovered after reading Beloved. Toni Morrison, you’re up next.
At the moment, though, my current author is Emily Giffin. I’ve recently discovered that I’m a big fan of the “chick lit” genre, but here’s the deal: it’s not a guilty pleasure for me, nor is it shallow. It’s simply a brand of book that I enjoy, with themes and topics that are either relatable or fun to read. I’m here to say that regardless of the genre you prefer, there’s no shame in it. I have a big, fancy, expensive English degree, and I love reading the kinds of books that are not and never will be considered canon. And that’s fine.
ANYWAY, after reading about five of Giffin’s novels, I found one of her recent and widely popular books, All We Ever Wanted.
- Author: Emily Giffin
- Genre: Fiction, Chick Lit
- Paperback: 331 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2018
The book follows the perspectives of three main characters living in Nashville: Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Nina is extremely wealthy and has a son at a prestigious private school, who’s about to go off to Princeton. She finds out, however, that her son has taken a photo of a drunk classmate, in a sexual, compromised position, with a racist caption, and sent it to his friends.
Lyla is the young woman in the photo, and Tom is her dad. The story revolves around the three of them sorting out the truth, repairing relationships, and figuring out how to move forward after an event that altered each of their lives and perspectives, in very different ways.
Like all of Griffin’s books, All We Ever Wanted was easy to read. I found the plot compelling; I wanted to scarf down the words and I consumed my way through each page very quickly—wanting to know what came next. I read her book in about 5 hours, and sacrificed some sleep in return. It was worth it for me.
The topic—revolving around sexual assault, privilege, character, entitlement, and relationships—was very topical and relevant to the world we live in today. I appreciated a point of view that hasn’t been written to death: the mother of the perpetrator. How do you respond when one of your favorite people is accused of something horrible? Nina’s chapters were my favorite, though it wasn’t necessarily easy to put myself in her shoes.
There’s something refreshing about a coming of age-type story for a woman who has already grown up, has an established life, and has been through her fair share of struggles already. It’s both realistic and very genuine, showing that growth and life moves and changes are possible and likely at any age and stage in life.
I also noticed the strength of characters in the novel. Giffin nailed it, whether it was the entitled and wealthy teenage boy, the role of a private school, or the teenager who would rather die than have her dad make a big deal out of the photo. Everyone was authentic in their reactions and feelings, which made the story richer.
Was it romantic? No. Was the topic easy? Not at all. Would I recommend this book? You bet.
Because I felt as though the ending left some ends a little untidy, I’d give All We Ever Wanted a 4/5 star rating.
I hope that others read this novel and can transpose it from the pages into the realities of rape culture and privilege, and take a few notes away from it. Empathy, if nothing else, is a clear contender for a lasting theme.