Janelle 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:
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