All We Ever Wanted follows three central characters through a story of class and entitlement set in modern day high society Nashville.
Nina Browning is amongst Nashville’s finest. Married to Kirk Browning, ultra-successful and ultra-wealthy tech developer and mother to her Princeton accepted son, Finch. On the surface, the Browning’s are shiny and privileged. Nina, however, grew up quite modestly, and often feels uncomfortable with all the glitz and glamour that comes along with the status of her husband.
Tom Volpe is a single dad, making an honest living as a carpenter. He is deeply moral and even more deeply protective of his only daughter, 17-year-old Lyla.
Lyla Volpe is a scholarship student at the same prep school Finch attends.
The story is based around an encounter between Finch and Nina while attending an unsanctioned party of a mutual friend and the uncomfortable aftermath of the decisions made.
Griffin does a terrific job of depicting an accurate look at conversations, interactions and actions of the young characters in her novel. I suspect a great deal of research and interviews with teenagers was required and she really hit her mark. Many of the key moments in the plot would have otherwise been superficial.
Personally, I felt the pace of the book to be a bit quick. The “incident” everything is based around happens quite immediately, which caused my perception of each character to be based around their reaction to, rather than decisions made prior to the event. There are very clearly defined “good” and “bad” characters, with the exception of one – Finch, who the reader is challenged with assessing themselves.
The plot twist at the end of the novel for me was a true ‘jaw dropper’. I stared at the pages in disbelief, my eyes burning with a mixture of shock and disappointment. Shock, that I was fooled up until that point, disappointment, because I should have seen it coming, it’s all too real.
Truthfully, my first thought after finishing was “I am terrified to have children in this messed up world”, but after discussing with a few friends who have read the book I have concluded that stories like this are a crucial reminder of what humans are capable of when presented with unlimited privilege and a lack of guidance. We must teach our children how to treat one another.
I am reminded of a quote from one of my favourite fictional characters, Sirius Black;
“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals”Sirius Black
Reviewed by: Annie
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