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Book Review: All We Ever Wanted

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.

Book Details

  • Author: Emily Giffin
  • Genre: Fiction, Chick Lit
  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2018

Plot Summary

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. 

Review

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. 

Rating

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. 

 

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18 thoughts on “Book Review: All We Ever Wanted

    1. It’s great! Right now I’m working on “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and “One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes. I’m loving both so far. Do you have any current books on your list? Thank you so much for reading.

  1. This is an interesting POV – mother of the perpetrator. Thank you for an informative review…I’ve been on a classics kick, but I like to intersperse them with lighter fare (in terms of writing style). Here’s a contender!

    1. I think it would be a nice change of pace, definitely a modern tone to mix things up. I’m hoping to integrate more classics into my list—do you have any suggestions on your recent favorites? Thank you so much for reading my review!

  2. This sounds like a really interesting read! The plot is something that can be very relatable to life now adays.
    Gorgeous cover too!
    Thank you for sharing.
    Alyssa
    THESACREDSPACEAP.COM

  3. I haven’t heard of the genre “chick lit” before! I’m the same with authors, when I find a book I’ve enjoyed – I always go check out other books they have written and read what they are about. It’s great because you know you’ll most likely find out you will enjoy! This book sounds like it would be really interesting to read, I’ll have to add it on to my list – I need to finish the book I’m currently reading first though! Great review 🙂

    Amy,
    https://creativenails.uk

    1. I actually recently discovered that name of the genre after going through books on Goodreads; the site prompted the question “would you like to further explore chick-lit” after I had added a bunch to my want to read/have read lists. I immediately looked it up and realized that, okay, that is a type of book that I enjoy. And I’m also a one book at a time reader. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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