REVIEW: Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

A Net Galley find, “Everything We Ever Wanted” by Sara Shepard tells the story of a family broken by crisis, and examines the ties that bind people together. Sylvie Bates-McAllister is a widowed mother of two grown sons: Charles, the upright businessman (who is considering having an affair) and Scott, the adopted son who’s a bit of rebel. Sylvie’s family history is tied closely to the prestigious independent school that her grandfather led and where she serves on the board. Her son Scott is a wrestling coach there. Disaster looms when Sylvie is notified of an unexpected student death at the school, possibly related to hazing on the wrestling team. This is the type of thing that can bring a school, a family, and an individual down, and Sylvie struggles to keep her head above water, while Charles fights his own demons and Scott maintains his independence. Added to this is the shadow of a supposed illicit affair that Sylvie’s husband had before his death- an affair that Sylvie seeks to know more about, yet wants to pretend never happened. All things tie together at the end of this well-written and compelling story.

I enjoyed reading this novel. My history in independent schools always puts me in line to read a novel set in one. While I related to the sense of identity that the characters felt in relation to the school, the thing that stood out to me was the stark emptiness of the character’s emotional well-being in this novel. They were all pretty much miserable: Sylvie, Charles, Scott, and Charles’ wife Joanna. Joanna’s intrepid and over-the-top mother was another unique but pathetic character as well. I found this book very grey – when I imagined the action, the setting, the mood, it all seemed overcast to me (until the end).

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading about independent schools and women’s lives. I really liked Sara Shepard’s writing as well.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my copy.

This author is the author of the “Pretty Little Liars” series for YA readers, so I may pick that up to check out!

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