Review: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown

26317027Janelle Brown’s debut novel, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, is a satire and social commentary on the super rich Silicon Valley lifestyle.  

After a stratospheric IPO makes him one of the wealthiest men in the area, Janice’s husband leaves her for her best friend and tennis partner, attempting to cut her out of his fortune.  Janice retreats to her 5200 square foot home to lick her wounds, staying away from the club and her “friends” for weeks.  Soon she’s hanging out with the sleazy pool boy and jonesing for “IT,” crystal meth that helps her get through the day.  

Alarmed and neglected, 14 year old daughter Lizzie, who has recently shaped up a bit on the swim team, enjoys the attentions of the boys on the team a little too much and pretty soon her name is all over the bathroom walls.  She calls older sister Margaret in LA to come home and help deal with their mom, which is perfect timing since Margaret is putting up a front for her rich friends while secretly being hounded by creditors.  She is looking for a way out. 

This family is a ridiculous mess.  No one talks to anyone else.  All three of these women are absurdly self-absorbed.  Janice is like Martha Stewart on overdrive, cleaning her house for hours each day when she’s not in bed sleeping, and completely oblivious to her daughters’ pain.  Lizzie, dealing with weight issues, mean girls, and boys who only like her for one thing, is completely alone and searching for anything to make her feel better.  She ends up finding Jesus in an evangelical youth group at a warehouse-style church.  Margaret is so deeply in denial about her financial problems that she takes a job dog-walking with disastrous results and thinks about moving to Mexico with the pool boy. 

Exposing the ugly underbelly of the American dream, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is a sometimes funny, sometimes painful look at one very dysfunctional  family, and their struggle to find ways to communicate with each other and to live in a world that is less than perfect.  However, the situations felt kind of dated to me in this time of economic uncertainty, and the “ick” factor (drugs, teen sex, excess everything) was high. 

You can find discussion, opinions and comments about AWEWWE at Mari’s blog, Bookworm with a View, and a reader’s guide can be found on the Random House site.  While I didn’t love this book, or anybody in it, it was fun to read it as part of a discussion, and I would recommend it to book clubs because they’d find a lot to talk about.  Thanks, Mari, for sending it my way.

For other takes on the book, check out these reviews:

3 R’s:  Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness

Booking Mama

The Family With Three Last Names

Breaking the Spine

This book was our Summer Reading Series selection for July.  Our August selection is Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens and the discussion will take place here on August 18th.

14 Responses

  1. Sounds like an interesting read, thanks for the review!

  2. I always like an investigation of the dark side of the American Dream. Thanks for the review!

  3. This will go on my TBR, even though I agree with you about the dated aspects. Poor widdle babee, having to retreat to her cramped 5200 sq. ft. home!

    There are still tons of people out there who are like her, though, and that’s really despicable, don’t you think?

  4. I know a family who sounds an awful lot like that one, I’m sad to say.

  5. I really did enjoy this book– everything was larger than life, but to me, that showed the grains of truth behind the exaggerations.

    Then again, I live in Silicon Valley, have seen IPO madness at close hand. I lived through my parents divorce, which had WAY more in common with the one in the book than people would believe.

    So maybe it’s just my world.

    See you in August for Two Years, No Rain1

  6. i listened to this book on my commute last year–the cover SUCKED me in big time–but was disappointed with the book too. the plot was a bit trite and as you mentioned, several aspects were over the top. margaret annoyed me to no end…

    okay, i’ll be quiet now. lol.🙂

  7. GOOD review.

  8. I’m not tempted to read it, but I do feel a little nosy about the ending.

  9. I did feel sorry for Lizzie; having a daughter almost the same age really made me aware of what she was going through. My review is at: http://litandlife.blogspot.com/2009/07/by-janelle-brown-417-pages-published.html

  10. […] This is my first time doing Kathy’s Wondrous Words meme.  These 3 words come from All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown (reviewed here). […]

  11. Glad to finally read a review of this one. That being said, I don’t think I would like this book at all. It sounds like a really depressing story with unlikable characters. Sorry to hear it was stinky.I was hoping it would be a bit more enjoyable.

  12. […] This is my first time doing Kathy’s Wondrous Words meme.  These 3 words come from All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown (reviewed here). […]

  13. This one just looks like fun and summery!

  14. This cover always catches my eye! Hey, I guess it’s just the ice cream🙂 Great review — it sounds like an intriguing read, but all the novels I’ve been tackling about dysfunctional families lately are making my stomach hurt. Think I’ll hold off for now!

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