Title: Everything I Was
Author: Corinne Demas
Publisher: Lerner Publishing
May Contain Spoilers
"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 father, a corporate VP, is "downsized" when his company merges with another. When he can’t find work, her family’s lifestyle–and her mother’s spending–quickly catches up with them. Eventually, they’re forced to move in with Irene’s grandfather in the family farmhouse upstate. But what begins as the most disastrous summer of Irene’s life takes a surprising turn, and Irene must decide what she wants for herself after losing everything she was.
Wow, I enjoyed this book so much! I don’t like the cover at all, though, and it turned me off of the book at first. Then I read the synopsis again, and decided that the cover didn’t really matter anymore. I loved the premise of Everything I Was, and I was curious to see if it had any similarities to Where I Belong. Both books have protagonists who are forced to re-evaluate their lives after their fathers lose their high paying jobs. I liked Irene from the beginning of the book, whereas Corinne, from Gwen Heasley’s story, took a bit for me to warm up to.
Everything I Was is a very understated book, and it has a slice of life vibe. It is more suited to MG readers, though, than YA, and the cover does not adequately reflect the age of the protagonist. I thought the heroine would be an older teen, but Irene is thirteen, and from the first page, she proved to be level-headed and practical. It’s her mother who hungers for the finest things in life, and when Irene’s father is laid off, they are forced to give up their fancy apartment in New York City and move in with her grandfather.
One thing about Irene that I liked was how down to earth she was. She didn’t come across as a spoiled rich kid, but instead tried to find the bright side to her change in scenery. It’s difficult for her to leave behind her friends and her old room, and the thought of having to go to another school is very upsetting to her, but she doesn’t let it color her life. She adapts, she adjusts, and once she meets the kids in the large Fox family, she settles into her new surroundings with a contentment she didn’t have in the city.
Irene isn’t a perfect kid, but she isn’t a self-indulgent brat, either. She has the loving support of her grandfather, which helps her through this difficult period in her life. Her greatest conflict occurs with her mother; while Irene takes her new circumstances in stride, her mother is bitter about it, as well as ashamed. She lies to her friends about the move, and Irene, confused by her mother’s behavior, begins to do the same. She won’t confide in her best friends in NYC, and she is embarrassed at the thought of attending her old school on a scholarship. Like her mother, she is afraid of the stigma attached to the scholarship, and would prefer that her old friends not know that her father, once a high earning executive, is currently unemployed.
I read Everything I Was in two sittings – I couldn’t put the book down. Corinne Demas’ writing style is straightforward and compelling, and highlights how little, everyday events change Irene’s expectations for life. She finds deep and lasting friendships with the Foxes’ and falls in love for the first time. She learns that life isn’t fair, and she learns to make the best of what she does have. The character interactions kept me engrossed in the story, and I am so glad that I didn’t judge this book by its cover.
Review copy provided by publisher