All You Never Wanted

By Adele Griffin
Published on October 9, 2012
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Netgalley
With my eyes closed and Alex's core friends all around me, it was like I'd become my big sister, or something just as good. And so who cared if they were calling it Alex's party? One thing I knew: it would be remembered as mine.

Alex has it all—brains, beauty, popularity, and a dangerously hot boyfriend. Her little sister Thea wants it all, and she's stepped up her game to get it. Even if it means spinning the truth to win the attention she deserves. Even if it means uncovering a shocking secret her older sister never wanted to share. Even if it means crying wolf.

Told in the alternating voices of Alex and Thea, Adele Griffin's mesmerizing new novel is the story of a sibling rivalry on speed.

Ever read a book where you finish it and realize you have absolutely no sympathy for any of the characters? Even if you should?  That's how I felt about Alex and Thea in All You Never Wanted.  These are girls who are handed everything they could ever want, thanks to their new, wealthy step-father.  On the surface, their lives look easy, but problems lurk underneath the surface, making their lives anything but the fairy-tale stories that they appear to be.  Alex is popular and pretty and has opportunities given to her right and left, but is also dealing with a pretty debilitating anxiety disorder.  Thea, her younger sister, used to be kind of nerdy and bookish, but as Alex declines, Thea sees a way to climb her way to the top, inventing a new, devious persona to escape her less-than-cool past and get what she wants.

The book alternates between being told by Thea in the first person, and third person sections focusing on Alex.  I wondered for a while why we didn't get to see Alex through her own eyes, but as we learn more about her anxiety and what triggers it, it makes sense that we wouldn't get her own story -- there is too much time spent building up to the reveal of something which is a secret to the reader and to everyone in Alex's life, but which is always at the very forefront of Alex's mind.  Still, I wish we would have gotten to see her in her own words, just a little bit.

Both of our narrators here are very unreliable, Thea especially.  It's established early on that she's manipulative and a liar, willing to do anything to climb the social ladder.  So it's easy to question everything she does, right up until the closing pages of the book.  I don't have anything against unreliable narrators -- it's an interesting technique that keeps a reader on their toes if done well -- but Thea was so absolutely unsympathetic of a character that I lost interest in trying to wade through her lies very early on.  By the end, there was a large part of me that just didn't care what happened to Thea.  I just wanted Alex to get out of all of her dysfunctional relationships and start over.

There are a couple of moments in this book that made me stop and go "WAIT YOU'RE KIDDING ME".  There's a huge insta-love thing between Alex and Xander; they share hardly any page time at all before she's realizing that she loves him and suddenly starts making drastic changes in her life.  Like, it's a positive thing for Alex that helps her cope with her anxiety, but as a reader it made me want to throw things.

This was an entertaining read which kept me turning pages until the end, but I also had a very hard time getting invested in all of these very unlikable characters and their lives.


1 comment:

  1. For whatever reason I was actually really invested in Thea's story (couldn't get into Alex's drama over the incident) although it was increasingly cringey. It was a weird book but very page-turning.

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