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***
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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!