Book Review: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Book Title and Author: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
Publication Date and Publisher: June 26, 2018 by Ballantine Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pages: 400 pages
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Date Read: May 30, 2018 (e-arc)

5 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.
Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.
Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

My Review:

As a long time reader and lover of Emily Giffin’s books, her newest book All We Ever Wanted was not at all what I expected because it is a departure from her usual writing style, but I loved it! All We Ever Wanted is not only one of the most enjoyable books that I’ve read this year, it is a compelling look at motherhood, parenting, family, friendship, teenagehood, love, and ultimately the decisions one must make when faced with during difficult times-do you do what is morally and ethically right or do what is socially expected?

Although the topics in All We Ever Wanted are heavier than Giffin’s normal lighthearted romances, she doesn’t disappoint her readers with this powerful and riveting novel. In the book, Griffin tackles important and timely topics such as sexism, racism, assault, social stigma, classism, and gender discrimination, as well as how social media and its lack of privacy can be extremely damaging to a person’s reputation in just a matter of seconds…all it takes is one picture posted online to quickly spread and destroy a reputation.

Unfortunately, this is what happens after a compromising and racially biased picture is taken of unconscious Lyla Volpe and texted during a drunken party. Of course, the pic goes viral, and the elite Nashville community starts to take sides against who is to blame. It is obviously not wealthy, privileged Finch Browning who did anything wrong even if he allegedly did take the pictures! After all, he was drunk and boys will be boys! Plus, he’s from a wealthy family and he’s just been accepted to Princeton…he certainly didn’t mean any harm. Finch certainly seems very contrite and apologetic, and he’ll do anything to make right the wrong.

While Lyla, well, she’s from the poor side of Nashville and not one of the rich and privileged since she’s just a scholarship student at the private, prestigious Windsor Academy; oh, and mustn’t forget that she’s Latina. And her parents are divorced! But really, everyone seems to think the entire situation happened because she’s Mexican..wait Latino…but what is the difference between the two, all the rich wonder as Lyla’s father, Tom, keeps explaining it every time his daughter’s race or ethnicity comes up while he defends her or fights to get justice for her amongst Nashville’s elite and wealthy!

The story is told through the perspectives of Lyla, Tom, and Nina, Finch’s mother, and I have to say that I loved all of their perspectives although I identified with Nina most of all. Yet, I loved hearing from Lyla as the confused teenager devastated by what had happened to her but determined to rise above, persevere, and move on despite all social repercussions. Tom is a great dad attempting to manage alone while trying to figure out how to give Lyla her freedom as she grows into a young woman and still protect his little girl. But Nina, in my opinion, made this book the excellent read that it is.

Nina is just all heart and soul even though she is torn in a million directions by the events of that night and what follows. I have to admit that I immediately felt a connection with her when in the first chapter, Nina tells about being from Bristol, a small town on the Tennessee-Virginia border. I laughed since that’s where I was born and grew up and most of my family still lives there! I’ve never read a book about anyone being from Bristol-I didn’t think anyone knew where that was, so Giffin shocked me a little!

Anyway, I knew immediately that I would love Nina, and I did. Even though she married into the high-class Nashville society, I knew there was no way she could lose herself and the girl who grew up in Bristol, and I was right! Giffin portrays how, as a mother, it is hard for Nina to look at her son and face some hard truths about his behavior, the repercussions his actions have on Lyla, Tom, and her own family, what consequences he needs to face, the tough love she needs to give him, and subsequently how her own life is changed by these events. Giffin deftly navigates the tumultuous waters of tough parenting with empathy and compassion. Being a mother of two teenage boys, what Nina went through tugged at my heart and I have to admit that I spent several parts of this book crying…for Nina, Lyla, and for the reality that these things happen not only in novels.

All We Ever Wanted is a blockbuster, must read this summer, and I truly think this is Giffin’s best book to date. Griffin has more than proven she is multi-talented with the change in direction of this novel and it’s more than timely topics. I hope to see more of these thought-provoking, enthralling novels from her in the future.

**Thank you, NetGalley and Ballentine Books for my review copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.**

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About the Author: Emily Giffin


Born: Baltimore, Maryland, The United States
Twitter: emilygiffin
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Emily Giffin is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full time. The author of seven New York Times bestselling novels, The One & Only, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Love The One You’re With, Heart of the Matter, and Where We Belong, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children.

28 thoughts on “Book Review: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

  1. Stephanie! This was a beautiful beautiful review! This will actually be my very first book by her and I’m so excited!
    I have two boys as well so I’m sure I will empathize with Nina, but I also have a daughter so… it’s so hard not to put yourself in these parents situations when reading, and social media makes things so different from when we were teenagers💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! It was such a wonderful book and I hope you enjoy it!! I have a daughter too, she just turned 8 last week, so I definitely empathized with Lyla’s character and how I’d feel if anything like that happened to her. I’d be furious. I empathized with Nina being a mom of teenage sons because I understand exactly how she felt when she had to look at her almost adult son and wonder why he did what he did when she thought she’d instilled better values in him and taught him to make better choices, and I knew exactly how hard it was for her as a mother to tough parent a son that age. I’ve been going through a pretty rocky time with one of my own sons who just turned 18, (nothing this extreme though…just a kid who now thinks he is a know it all adult!!), but this book definitely reminded me that you can give your kids all the skills they need, teach them everything you want them to know and prepare them for adulthood but it doesn’t always mean they will make the best choices and then as a mom you have to decide what consequences they should have. You’re right, it is so hard not to put yourself in these parent’s situations. Even though my situation is a different with my son, I still felt like I understood Nina when she’s faced with what she needs to do towards the end about Finch and Lyla. I think good, loving parenting is the same across the board. Social media is awful…thank God we didn’t have it as teenagers! 💕❤💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My oldest boy is now 21 and he now realizes he didn’t know anything at 18, so just hang in there!
        Although he is home from college right now but going back next Sunday and I’m not sure he knows where he is living, and I’m really trying to stay out of it, because he gets all hostile when I bring it up, hard to let go!💜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My oldest will be 21 in Sept..he would just love me calling him a teenager, but I won’t tell him, haha! He’s still underage, so I guess I still think of him as one, LOL! I totally get what you mean with your oldest realizing he he didn’t know anything at 18 and does now…my oldest is the same way although he’s always been pretty mature and never given me any issues. Not even when he was a kid..I’m still waiting for him to go through the terrible two’s 🙂 I got lucky with him, for sure. We don’t ever remember him tossing the “I’m an adult…blah, blah” in our faces OR ever making the really stupid choices that go against what we’ve taught him that my 18 yr old is making. It seems that everything between him and I for the last 3 weeks has turned into WWIII, so I can barely be in the same room with him and have a discussion, which is the hardest thing since we’ve always been super close, but I’m not going to fight with him constantly as he gets hostile like you say your son is getting. I don’t want that around his sister since she is young and doesn’t need it. So I’m just letting him face the consequences of his choices on his own. It is hard to let go…I want to keep babying him, but I think that is part of his problem…I babied him too long 😦 We’ll see though; he knows that I love him and will always be here to support him and everything, but I’m not going to let him get by with things that we don’t agree with like not keeping a curfew “because he’s an adult”, etc and things like that and doesn’t understand the concept of my house, my rules….kids! I’m glad you understand the teenage yrs too! I hope your son figures out everything soon!! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. All mine still live at home…the 8 year old obviously, LOL. My oldest is at off at college but it is a 20 min drive, so he’s been at home saving up all his money-he was going to move out last fall but ended up staying when I was really sick and just diagnosed with Lupus to help out around the house and with his sister, who adores him. I love that he did that, but he is ready to move out with his girlfriend now, and they’ve found a place and are moving in Aug. My 18 yr old just graduated HS June 12th and starts college Aug 20, and the plan was for him to stay home like his brother since his drive is about 30 min since he’s going to my old university, but we did tell him this week if he kept it up, he would need to apply for dorm housing. He was shocked since his brother was never told that, so who knows what an eye opener it will be! He was never a pain in the you know what until the past couple of months and new friends…ugh! My oldest was definitely my easiest since my daughter is dramatic, LOL. But she is sweet 99% of the time so that makes up for it. And I was a bratty child, so I guess this is payback in a way…. 😉 I hope he does for your sake too!!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Excellent review! I enjoyed this one too. I don’t understand how it’s all of a sudden almost June 26. Is it just me or is there a lot of books being released on that day? I really have to get better at organizing what I’m reading in one. Definitely need to catch up on my reviews.
        Fantastic review and I hope you had a great weekend! I really have to get better at organizing what I’m reading and one. Definitely need to catch up on my reviews.
        Fantastic review and I hope you had a great weekend! 💜❤️💜

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thank you, Dee! I’m glad you enjoyed this one too! I can’t believe it is almost the end of the month…crazy!! It was just May! I think so…I only had 2 ARCs for the 26th though, but I have 5 coming up for July 10th and I have no idea how that happened!! I’ve read them all, but I just need to get started writing reviews but am on vacation and don’t feel like it, which means when I get home, I’m going to get swamped with writing reviews…ugh! So I need to catch up on writing my reviews too! I hope you had a great weekend too! We’re in South Carolina at our family’s beach house, so it’s been fun! We’re here until Sunday, so I’m trying to just relax until I go back home and then it’s all dramatic again….I did get your DM, and oh boy, I feel you!! I will answer you soon!! I hope graduation went well! ❤ ❤


    1. Thank you so much, Laurel! It really is a must read in my opinion just because the topic is so timely and she does such a wonderful job writing about it without being judgmental or biased. She can be too serious at times in her past books and that hasn’t always worked out well I’ve thought, so I don’t know what happened for her to write this particular way, more like a Jodi Picoult style, but it worked!! I’m very glad too. Yes, you only have 2 days, yay! You’re welcome!


      1. Yay! Glad you are! Not too bad for now…on holiday until next weekend, so trying to relax while I can! It’s just been so very hot today we couldn’t even go outside… 109 degrees (43 degrees C)!! Ugh! I’m hoping it will cool down tomorrow because it’s no fun being at the beach when it’s that hot. ⛱☀️

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved that Nina did not lose herself in the high society. I respected her so much because of that. I thought she was a really important character. I also liked that she didn’t defend her son and try to get him out of trouble. We need more boy moms like Nina to change the way things sometimes go down in our society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did too. She was so strong with everything that happened and I thought that was very important with all she faced. Yes, I loved that since so many parents try to find a way to let their children get out of trouble. As a mother to boys ages 20 and 18, and one who has been in trouble lately although nowhere near this scale, they have to face consequences so they can be moral and ethical men. Like I told my son, “you chose to do something that you knew was wrong, and you will face the consequences on your own, and I hope it will be a learning experience.” It is painful to give that type of parenting, but it has to be done or our kids will just grow up to be men who think they can get by with anything.


  3. I read 2 books by her but I remember that some of the characters got me on my nerves hahaha I loved the sequel to Something Blue better because of that. But she writes compelling stories, that’s for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, yes they can! I’ve read them all and one book they annoyed me so much I think I gave it 1 star, haha. Something Borrowed and Something Blue will always be 2 of my favorites she wrote; this one is a complete 180 though. No fluffy chick lit here! Definitely compelling though.


  4. Loved this review and I’m so very glad you ended up enjoying it! She’s one of my favorite authors, but I have so much catching up to do. Have it added. ❤😘 p.s. refollowed and hope your posts will start showing up again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She is one of mine too and I honestly think this is one of her best even though it’s so different than her other books; it really reminded me of a Jodi Picoult novel the way she tackled the issues she did and it was definitely lacking “fluff”. I think you will like it since I know you love Picoult too! And I was just shocked that the main character was from my home town, lol…I’ve never seen that in a book! Oh, LOL! I didn’t realize you weren’t following me anymore, but I’m glad you are again! 🙂 ❤ I'm having so much trouble with WP not letting me follow blogs, especially new blogs-idk what it is. Crazy!


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