Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ARC Review: EVERYTHING I WAS

The Book: EVERYTHING I WAS
The Author: Corinne Demas
The Publisher: Carolrhoda LAB (an Imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)
Release Date: April 1, 2011

Summary (as pilfered from the Netgalley marketing copy):
"My walls were stripped, and all that was left in the room was a pile of boxes and my mattress propped against the wall."

So begins Irene's journey from an Upper West Side penthouse to—well, she's not entirely sure where. Irene's investment banker father is "downsized" when his company merges with another. When he can't find work, her family's lifestyle—and her socialite mother's spending—quickly catches up with them. Eventually, they're forced to move in with Irene's grandfather in the big family farmhouse upstate. But what begins as the most disastrous summer of her life takes a surprising turn when she meets a most remarkable family.

EVERYTHING I WAS is the story of a young woman deciding what she wants for herself after she thought she'd lost everything.


My Take:
After reading EVERYTHING I WAS in one sitting, I am left pondering how I felt about this book.  Corinne Demas' talent as a writer is unquestionable.  She has a way of reeling the reader in from the very first sentence, and with the economic straits that many families are facing today, this premise is one that I think many young readers can relate to. 

But, I find that I must emphasize the "young reader" part of that sentence, as this is more middle grade than young adult.  By the book cover, I walked into this story expecting a much older character (sixteen or seventeen).  This misconception was only perpetuated by the fact that Irene's age is not spelled out until about fifty pages into the book.  Since Demas wrote Irene quite convincingly as a thirteen-year-old (until I realized my mistake, I thought she was a little on the childish side for 16), obviously the mistake was mine in sticking with my ill-formed preconceived notions.

That little mix-up was really the only problem I had with this book.

A simply told story of how a kid feels when her whole world is turned around, decisions made without any thought as to her feelings on the matter, is something I think any pre-teen would empathize with.  I've read other reviews where the reviewer laments the lack of more complex layers to the story, but I think this singular focus on how a family goes from gluttonous spending to begging shelter from relatives works well.  And, Irene's journey from silently accepting everything shoveled her way to standing up for herself and shouting out what she wants is an enlightening one for the middle grade set.