ARC Review: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin


AllWeEverWantedCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: In the riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, three very different people must choose between their family and their values.

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Setting: Modern-day Nashville, Tennessee

***I received an eARC copy of All We Ever Wanted from the publisher, Ballantine Books, via NetGalley***

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: A quick read with a mixed message.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin is one of those books that I am really not sure what to think about. Compulsively readable, but with characters that are truly despicable, and only a handful of characters that are kind and good, I really struggled with the characters and their choices here.

All We Ever Wanted is told in alternating POV chapters between high school age Lyla, Lyla’s father, Tom, and Nina, the mother of high school senior Finch. Finch takes a risqué photo of Lyla, captions it with a racist caption (Lyla is Brazilian), and sends it around to his friends. As Finch has just been accepted into Princeton, the photograph has serious repercussions for Finch’s future (not to mention Lyla’s).

Oof. Where to start. So much of this book is about privilege and money, and that just really irritated me. Turns out I don’t care for contemporary fiction that has rich people acting like jerks, especially when those characters never make any positive changes or ever get their comeuppance. Many of the characters here were just absolutely awful, and I really had trouble with a lot of the scenes. Why is attending an exclusive, wealthy school worth all of the drama? Why are people just so darn mean to each other? I never got a satisfactory answer or solution in this read, and I think that was part of my frustration with All We Ever Wanted.

In terms of our main characters, they were all three the most likeable of the bunch, although Lyla’s father, Tom, slightly irritated me with his constant chip-on-the-shoulder towards the wealthy that he had. He was sending Lyla to a fancy private school! Who did he think she’d end up being friends with and dating? He also had some anger issues that bothered me, and I didn’t feel he was as nice a person as the author was trying to portray him. I also am not so sure that his POV was necessary. Our main female characters, Lyla and Nina, were both interesting POVs. I liked Nina’s POV more than Lyla’s, just because Lyla’s own reaction to the photo and her decisions in the book felt a bit forced for the story. Nina felt more real, as she goes through the struggle of parenting, her marriage, and her wealth. I could feel Nina’s emotion throughout the book, and her desire to do the right thing.

This book kept me thinking about all of the different issues it brings up, and this would make a good book club read as I doubt anyone could read this and not have a strong opinion on the characters, the plot and choices made, and the issues involved. This book kept me entertained, but it certainly made me angry as well. I can’t say what I absolutely disliked about the book without spoiling it, but I’m sure that this read would make for some spirited book club discussions!

Bottom Line: A fast read that would make for some good discussion!

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Author Website

 Will you be reading this book? Are you a fan of Emily Giffin’s other works? Do you enjoy reading contemporary fiction?


5 thoughts on “ARC Review: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

  1. With this type of story, I just can’t even. In 2018 I really don’t feel like I can sit around reading about problems that people have because they have too much money. There’s just so much other stuff going on that I would have lost my patience with this book pretty early on. I hope you find a more satisfying read with your next book! What’s on deck?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was frustrating, especially the ending! My next review is another disappointing contemporary: Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky. That review hits tomorrow, then I’ve got some better books coming up (Doc – historical fiction about Doc Holliday, Children of Blood and Bone – young adult fantasy). I just started Bleak House – I’m enjoying it so far, but it’ll be awhile before I can really devote a lot of time to it.


      1. I really enjoyed Bleak House, and one useful tool is to print off a copy of the character list on Wikipedia. I learned a lot about how the British court system worked from that novel. Fingers crossed that the reading gets better.

        Liked by 1 person

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