This is the second adult novel by Sara Shepard, popular YA author of the Pretty Little Liars series. First was The Visibles (Free Press, 2010), a coming-of-age that received fine reviews and seems tailor-made for teen readers. Everything We Ever Wanted revolves around a bullying scandal; Shepard’s many fans are sure to be interested.
Adult/High School–Spock of Star Trek fame put it best: “…having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting.” Best known for her teen series of “Pretty Little Liars” books (HarperTeen), Shepard uses sophisticated prose and the aura of old money to illustrate a family’s angst, ennui, and the belief that appearances are everything. Issues of race and class are the underpinnings in this story of a family floundering, trying to be happy and failing miserably, each person absorbed by loneliness and their perceived alienation from the others. The matriarch, Sylvie Bates-McAllister, becomes unanchored after her husband’s sudden death. Their grown sons are drifting; Scott, who was adopted, is coaching wrestling at the private school that is their family’s legacy, and Charlie is unhappily writing advertising copy he doesn’t believe in. Secrets, including the possibilities of an illicit affair and school hazing, splinter the extended family’s oh-so-proper façade. The stifling weight of history and privilege implicit in Roderick, the ancestral home that is their heritage, contrasts sharply with the contemporary suburban Philadelphia setting. Alternating points-of-view from each character slowly fill in the catalysts of their shifting loyalties, exposing their self-deception. Charlie’s wife comes to the realization that, “When we’re alone, it’s almost as if we don’t exist. We have no identity.” Teens who enjoy layered, realistic stories will find much to like here and be able relate to the isolation and longing for connection the characters share.–Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI