Everything We Ever Wanted - Sara Shepard

Released October 2011

Sara Shepard

Harper Collins

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth for the Amazon Vine Program

I've read a few of my daughter's "Pretty Little Liars" books, and find Sara Shepard  to be very good at creating characters I either love or hate. That's the thing, I expected to feel passionately about the characters in Everything We Ever Wanted and it simply fell short.

The story revolves around a dysfunctional family living in Philadelphia. The story switches back and forth between the different characters' points of view, but it's easy to keep track of who is speaking.

Sylvie Bates-McAllister's grandfather founded Swithin School and now she heads their board. When she receives a 9 p.m. phone call informing her that her adopted son Scott is suspected of leading a hazing incident that killed a young boy, Sylvie's world is ripped out from under her. She immediately calls her other son, Charles, to relay the news and ask for a family meeting to discuss the situation.

Charles does not get along with his younger brother. In their teens, an incident between the two led to the breakup of Charles and his girlfriend. He's never quite forgiven his brother. Worse, Scott bounces from job to job, barely made it through Swithin and seems to have no motivation to do something with his life. Scott seems content living off the family's money. All of that makes Charles really resent Scott.

Charles's wife, Joanna, isn't sure of her place in the family. All she knows is that she finds herself attracted to Scott and the more Charles pulls away from her, the more she comes to rely on Scott for friendship and support.

Quite honestly, so much of this book was unnecessary. If Sylvie had simply taken the time to talk to her sons open and honestly, she could have learned the truth from the very beginning. She came off as a very lousy mother. The same goes for the problems between Charles and his brother and Charles and his wife. I reached points where I wanted to grab each character and tell them to sit down, talk about their feelings and move on. However, that would have ended the story after a couple chapters, so I realize things had to drag on.

For me, the book didn't move quickly. Things seemed to drag on far longer than necessary. By the time I reached the ending, I never felt that I'd connected with any of the characters and simply didn't care how things played out. That's never a good sign.

I suppose for readers who really enjoy dysfunctional families who seem to have no skills at discussing their issues with one another, Everything We Ever Wanted may be a great choice. I'm really sad that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I have the author's young adult novels.


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