All You Never Wanted

 
(i)

 

Dark, twisty tale of rich teen girls' sibling rivalry.

What parents need to know

Educational value

While much of the story takes place in school, and there's the occasional reference to subject matter, All You Never Wanted is about dysfunctional relationships, not academic learning.

Positive messages

Between the girls' dysfunctional family and their backstabbing social circle, there are few glimmers of the positive. Alex comes to the gradual realization that there might be a better way to live, and makes an effort to find it. Drinking, drug dealing, stealing, and other misbehavior create a certain paranoia but often seem to have no real consequences. The girls have some nostalgia for the days when they and their mom were poor but spent more time together.

Positive role models

Struggling with emotional issues and generally out of her depth, Alex makes some effort to do the right thing, and gravitates to Xander, a cute, good-hearted guy she's met while doing community service for school, and shows kindness to the kid she's tutoring. Many other characters are simply conniving schemers out for themselves.

Violence

Thea and the victim of her false rumormongering get into a physical cat fight. A rape may have happened, or Thea may have made it all up.

Sex

As the book opens, Thea is telling a totally fabricated tale of a sexual encounter between two classmates, with reference to what happened to the guy's "pubes." Alex has been having sex with her boyfriend for some time; Thea wants to have sex with him, while Alex cheats on him with another guy. Sexual encounters are described clearly enough to know what's going on, but not graphically. Clothes are removed in one scene.

Language

True to teen vernacular, there's a fair amount of crude language, such as "s--t," "pubes."

Consumerism

Luxury cars (Mercedes Benz, BMW), cable TV offerings (On Demand), and other commercial products are mentioned by name, largely to set the scene.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Epic teenage drinking takes place at a crazy, parentless house party; one of the characters sells marijuana as a sideline to his day job, while others are his customers or helpers.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that All You Never Wanted is all about rich teens (and their less rich friends) behaving badly (from sex, drugs, and alcohol to vicious lies and theft). Some are troubled or casually irresponsible; others are borderline sociopathic in their complete indifference to the consequences of their behavior for other people. The plot centers on two sisters: effortlessly popular high school senior Alexandra Parrott, who's suffering from paralyzing emotional issues and probably anorexia, and Thea, one year younger, who wants everything Alex has, from her secure position with the popular crowd to her hot boyfriend, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. There's a fair amount of crude language ("s--t," "pubes"), a physical fight between two girls, and the mention of a rape, which may or may not have happened.

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What's the story?

Life took a turn for the worse for Alexandra and Thea Parrott when their father decided he didn't want to be bothered with a family and took off. After their mom struggled to support them with temp work, their troubles seemed to be over when an older and very rich man married her and moved them all to his opulent, if tacky, estate in Greenwich, CT. ALL YOU NEVER WANTED finds the two newly rich girls driving their fancy cars to school, where Alex is automatically accepted in the popular crowd (about which she doesn't really care) and Thea is left out. Thea, the brainy one, will stop at nothing to get what Alex has, and, with mom and stepdad gone for the weekend, leaving the girls alone, she plans an epic house party to boost her social status.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Few of the characters -- Alex and Xander, and the girls' absent mother in better days -- are remotely likable, and it's sometimes difficult to care about many of them. Thea, while somewhat appealing for her brains and snarkiness, drags the reader and all around her deeper and deeper into pathology. As a window on toxic teen scenes amid poor little rich kids, and a study in the way people fail each other, deliberately and otherwise, All You Never Wanted is often intriguing and thought-provoking. But it's also somewhat unsatisfying in its unresolved issues.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why sibling rivalry is such a popular theme in books. Do you find the relationship between Alex and Thea believable?

  • Do you agree with Alex and Thea that maybe they were happier before their mom married their stepfather and had nothing but each other? Or do you agree with Josh, who tells Thea it's never better to be poor?

  • What do you think happens after the end of the book? If you were Alex and Thea's parents, how would you react? Do you think anything will get better for anyone?

Book details

Author:Adele Griffin
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Knopf
Publication date:October 9, 2012
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of All You Never Wanted was written by

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Quality

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  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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