I know I often say “I couldn’t put it down!” about books, but today I’m here with a book I finished in two sittings, the second of which I blew through the last 150 pages. All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin was the book of summer 2018. I saw it everywhere, but I had so many other books on my to be read that I decided to wait to read it. It was also featured on the Bad on Paper podcast, which I love! In the fall, the book was 40% off at Barnes and Noble, so I picked it up and added it to my shelf, thinking I’d read it when my schedule let up. It didn’t. So, when I headed home for Christmas break, I added it to my bag. I’m so glad I did because this book is so important and thoughtful and well-executed.
I will begin by saying I’ve read two other Emily Giffin books: Something Borrowed and The One and Only. I loved Something Borrowed, but The One and Only left me a bit wanting. Despite not loving the story in the second book, I really enjoy Giffin’s writing style. It’s easy to read and always has thoughtful kernels that make you dig a little deeper.
All We Ever Wanted is a timely read about a high school senior who takes a sexual photo of a sophomore girl who has fallen asleep at a party and sends it to his friends. What ensues is the struggle of the boy’s mother to make her privileged, verging on entitled, son, see that his actions are seriously messed up, a single father’s quest to make his daughter see the boy’s actions were wrong, and a close look at what happens when you try to make your child’s life easier but risk their character.
The novel is told from three different perspectives: Nina, the mom of the boy who allegedly took the photo, Lyla, the girl in the photo, and Tom, Lyla’s father. I sometimes struggle with books told from various viewpoints, as it can be a bit much. This book was well-executed, though, and I really enjoyed each character’s story. I didn’t find myself trying to speed through one character’s chapter to get to another’s. What I enjoyed most was that each character felt realistic and genuine. Lyla sounded and thought like a 16-year-old girl. Her naivete made my stomach turn at times. As someone who had some pretty hard, terrible rumors go around while in high school, I related to her a lot. Her story also made me so thankful that I did NOT go through high school when social media was anything other than MySpace and top nines. High school seems like an absolute war zone nowadays (ugh, I sound so old).
I admit I was hesitant to read a book about this topic. I feel like talking about social media, sexual assault or harassment, and rape culture can go seriously array pretty easily. However, this book hit the right points. I think it’s a good dialogue starter and I think it calls out a lot of the things we say or think that can be problematic. Hearing statements from a character in the book is uncomfortable in a good way. Interestingly, I listened to the Bad on Paper podcast episode again and Grace and Becca said “it would ruin his whole life” about the guy who took the picture. Sure, it would… but also he did it and should face the consequences of his actions. Accountability is so important and it’s something that feels less and less common today. I highly recommend this read and I’m so glad I fit it into my reading schedule before the end of 2018!
I plan to share my 2019 reading goals and a recap of my 2018 reads soon!