All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown

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All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Three women in one family have their lives torn apart and have to confront their demons. It's an excellent story with strong female characters and will probably appeal more to women than to men, but is still recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Hutchinson
ISBN: 978-0091920708

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On the day that her husband's company went public and turned him into a multi-millionaire, Janice Miller was preparing a celebration dinner for that evening. She didn't really know what would be done with the money but she had a longing to buy some really good art, something like a Van Gogh (yes, they now had that sort of money) which might be loaned out to a museum. It was all shattered when a letter was delivered. Paul wanted out of the marriage and wouldn't be coming home.

Janice's elder daughter, Margaret, had problems of her own. Encouraged by her father to see herself as a businesswoman rather than a potential wife she'd started her own magazine. Snatch wanted to wean women away from the consumer society, but the problem was that Margaret was getting deeper and deeper into debt in an attempt to make it viable. Eventually she just manages to scrape together the cash to drive home and escape her creditors.

Lizzie, her younger daughter is just fourteen. She's always had a battle with her weight and the weight has usually won, but recently she's been having the time of her life. Boys seem to be drawn to her and then she hears about the tally the boys are keeping on the school washroom wall – and some of the boys who have put their names there haven't slept with her.

On the surface the Millers look so perfect but the façade is backed by secrets and lies. Janelle Brown isn't frightened to take on some very big issues in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and she handles them with skill and understanding. It would be too easy to simply slide Janice Miller into drug abuse but it all starts so innocently with some prescription medicine that gives a bit of a lift at a time when it's badly needed. Debt problems are usually seen as the prerogative of the feckless but Margaret had been close to making a success of her magazine and all it needed was just that little bit more investment. It could have been a resounding success – but it wasn't. Lizzie, poor Lizzie, was the afterthought of the family who only wanted to be popular and didn't deserve what happened to her or to encounter the boys so ready to take advantage of her.

The female characters are excellent but I was less convinced by the men. Paul Miller is a business man – why would he try and get away with giving his wife so little when even a fifty/fifty share out would have left him with more money than he could hope to spend? Margaret's film star ex-boyfriend is a self-centred rat with little in the way of redeeming features (except the ones he practices in front of a mirror) and there's only one boy who seems to like Lizzie for Lizzie rather than as a sexual encounter. It's a good story but I'd like to have seen a little more balance about the men.

It is a page-turner though. As the lies begin to unravel Janice, Margaret and Lizzie have to face their own personal demons and then come to terms with each other. I read the book in just over twenty four hours when I really should have been doing other things. I didn't know how it was going to work out but the ending was satisfying. This is Janelle Brown's debut novel and I'm really looking forward to seeing if she can maintain this standard with her next book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy this type of book then you might also like The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day or The Bankruptcy Diaries by Paul Broderick.

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Buy All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown at


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