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Friday, September 23, 2011

Ignore the Cover Art - Everything I Was Warm, Funny and Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Despite its rather ominous cover, Everthing I Was by Corinne Demas, is actually a very sweet story. It begins on the day 13-year-old Irene moves out of her posh Upper West Side apartment. With her father out of work, her family can no longer afford the exorbiant rent, even though they've auctioned off valuable art, let the housekeeper go, and sold her father's Jag. Unless a job suddenly becomes available, her private school tuition won't be paid, and Irene won't be able to return except as a scholarship student - a fate too embarrassing to contemplate. In the meantime, the family's moving to the country to live with Irene's paternal grandfather, who lives on a rural farm. Irene's leaving her whole life behind, with nothing to look forward to ahead of her.
Irene's high-maintenance mother can't stand life in the boondocks, while Irene and her father find that it suits them quite well. Part of Irene's enthusiasm comes from discovering the Fox family. With a down-to-Earth mother (so different from Irene's own), a kind, if absentminded father and five active children, the Foxes' big, rundown mansion is as alluring as a circus. Resembles one, too. The more Irene gets to know the large, loving family, the more she sees the dysfunction in her own. Still, she's happy. Especially when 15-year-old Jim Fox comes around.
When an opportunity comes up in the city, Irene doesn't know what to think: City or country? Old life or new? As she deals with this newest life reversal, she must come to terms with her family, her friends, but, most of all, herself.
The cover of this one really threw me; the darkness of it still bothers me. Not that the story's all flowers and bubbles. It's not, but it's definitely lighter than the cover indicates. That little issue aside, though, I enjoyed Everything I Was. It's a quick read, full of warmth, humor and hope. It's a timely story and one I think young readers will find relatable in this time of economic upheavel. Even if they've never been uprooted, they'll sympathize with Irene, fall for the laidback Jim, and enjoy this gentle ride out into the countryside.
(Readalikes: The Foxes reminded me of the Penderwicks in the series by Jeanne Birdsall, although the books really aren't similar at all.)
Grade: B
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13? - This is the first time I've ever encountered this situation, so I'm not sure exactly how to rate Everything I Was. Irene says the F-word twice, which should automatically make the book an R. However, there's nothing else in the book that's offensive. A little kissing, but that's it. Weird, right? If it weren't for those two F-bombs, the book would be PG. So, what do I give it? PG-13? R? I'm going to stick with the former for now.
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Everything I Was from the generous folks at Carol Rhoda LAB. Thank you!


  1. I'm intrigued. I think I'll go see if my library has it. They probably don't.


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