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Book Review: All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin

April 13, 2018

 

Author perk: the advanced copies of books that are releasing soon. 

Author confession: Emily Giffin is one of the writers who reignited my love of reading and writing post-college. In fact, her story of leaving her law career and giving herself time to write her novel (Something Borrowed, which then went on to become a bestseller and a movie) is what propelled me to make a similar move and give myself an allotted amount of time post-master's degree to find an agent and complete the revision of TRL.

 

A lack of diversity is something you can't unsee once you really recognize that it exists in the publishing world. Many of my favorite authors have fallen off my list because I recognized how their characters were all white...and some of you may remember that I worried Emily Giffin would become the same way after her last (still amazing) novel.

 

I am no longer afraid. Emily Giffin went there. And she knocked it out of the park.

 

All We Ever Wanted follows three people in Nashville (a place I lived for six months, so it was fun to see it in print!)--a wealthy mom named Nina who has a son attending a prestigious private school, a scholarship student's dad named Tom, and Tom's daughter Lyla, who attends the same school as Nina's son. When a scandalous photo of Lyla makes her way around school, all three lives are affected deeply and will never be the same.

 

Emily does an amazing job of capturing the complexity of being a teenager, and the nuances of why teens do the things they do...as well as beautifully going through the different emotions parents feel as their children are hurt, finding themselves, and navigating their world. The book is also lovely insight into how tough situations, like the technological complexities children face nowadays, can impact generations beyond millennials.

 

What affected me most deeply about this book was the layers of labeling that those in certain groups make of others.

The poor seeing the rich as against them.

The rich seeing the poorer or blue collar workers in the world as those seeking handouts.

How attitudes are learned by children.

How scandals that occur to people of color are often seen as deserving, or the norm, whereas those same scandals by people with white skin prompt outrage.

How racism can be labeled as racist by some, and seen as a mild infraction by those who aren't affected by the dirtiness of words soaked in hatred.

If this book does reach a reader, there is no way that a reader won't think over their own previous actions and words and recognize if they've slipped up when viewing someone of a lower socioeconomic class, a different ethnic background or sex.

 

Once again, Emily Giffin shows the world as anything but black and white, pinpointing the human side of characters and never making them completely right or wrong. I love that I can trust her writing on that--she always manages to depict characters with depth and facets that make them real. It's always grey area and that's precisely what makes her writing so powerful.

 

If you've read Emily Giffin's novels before, then this one is different in subject matter and no different in the high quality readers have come to expect. And if you haven't, I'd suggest you read it simply for the way it touches your soul and makes you question how technology, wealth, gender, race, and class intertwine to create a problem.

 

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