All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffen is one of those books that makes you think and makes you want to talk to your friends about it. So, hello friends!
I heard about this book from the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer book club picks. It isn't slated to come out until the end of June. The description had me hooked: something terrible happens among the teens of a private high school in Nashville...how do the parents react? How do the teens react? How would you react?
The story focuses on an incident between Nina Browning's son, Finch, and Tom Vlope's daughter, Lyla. This incident forces the people in the story to sort through their views on what happened and whom they will defend.
All We Ever Wanted was told in present tense/first-person narration. The perspective changed in each chapter. This made it easier to understand both sides and watch the characters evolve. Present tense created a sense of urgency. There were moments when I literally could not put it down. I just had to see what happened next and if my predictions were right. Everything in my life shut down until I finished reading.
The story was well crafted and included so many interesting perspectives. At one point, I set the book down and thought how intentional Giffen was in making sure a variety of viewpoints were represented (wealthy, economically disadvantaged, various races, gender, and political views). For a less experienced author, this might yield a cloying moral tale. But Giffen does this seamlessly. I never felt lectured or that she was forcing unrealistic characters into the novel to make a point. Instead, this subtle diversity supported a major theme: there is good and bad in everyone.
As a parent, this was both difficult and timely. I put myself on both sides and gained a new level of empathy for families facing similar situations. Nina, one of the main characters, is a mother dealing with a horrible situation. She's asking herself tough questions and trying to figure out how to move forward. I think I wanted to hate her, but I ended up liking her a lot. Motherhood is complicated and nuanced and Giffen captured that in Nina's character.
"I just can't believe it. What's happening now. The person my son has both slowly and suddenly become."
Giffen also explores how money changes these situations. While Nina notes, "Character has absolutely nothing to do with finances" the reader does have to consider the role money plays (either having it or not) in the way different characters react. Very, very thought-provoking...possibly great book club discussion material.
Even though I related to Nina, the other character's voices were well developed and realistic. I really wanted to hang out with some of them (Bonnie, I'm looking at you). The book was highly enjoyable and I found myself skipping netflix and twitter to read. For me, that's winning. Look for it on June 26, 2018.