Shirley Marr's Reviews > All I Ever Wanted

All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield
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Jan 22, 12

bookshelves: aussie-ya

You know the old adage "It's not you, it's me?" I would love to use that sentiment to describe my feelings, but honestly, I don't think I can. I think it's the book as well, not just me, so maybe this will be the most truthful review I will ever write. The other old adage, the one that goes "this hurts me as much as it hurts you," is true.

I have nothing to gain by saying what I'm about to say. All I Ever Wanted has everything going for it and my review will do very little to dent that. In fact, even my rating has only had the impact of dropping the overall rating to 4.12 on Goodreads. This book has no negative reviews on the net, it has been heralded as a "gift to the Australian Publishing world" and nominated for a Gold Inky (prestigious Aussie award for our overseas friends) in 2011. I'm only writing this review because I feel very strongly about what I have to say and I feel I have to say it, for better or worse. That is all.

Can I say that there will be inevitable spoilers? There are events I have to reveal or else my whole review will be one giant spoiler tag. Avert your eyes, my lovely, if you really want to read this book.

On the surface All I Ever Wanted appears well, all I ever want for a novel. Australian. Indie YA. Published by Text, perhaps Australia's most exciting and hip Pub House on the block. Endorsements front and back from Author Royalty, Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood. A delicious indie cover. And if you look at my reading progress I loved the book to begin with. Set in an extremely rough and violent neighborhood the story is about Mim, tough girl on the wrong side of the tracks who collects a "package" for her mother. She runs into her long-term crush, Jordon Mullen who promptly steals her brown paper bag and rolls her bike into the creek. Bam. That had me at hello.

So it's got that on-trend feel of desperation + decent people as per TV shows such as Weeds, Breaking Bad and Underbelly. And the prose. If I could describe it, then you wouldn't have to read the book, which is not what I can do or intend. Let me share one of my favourite: "People start coming outside because there's nothing to watch. It's so still when everything stops. For weeks the drip and hum of air-conditioners has been the soundtrack to summer." If Cath Crowley and Melina Marchetta had a baby, it would be Vikki Wakefield.

This novel is being branded as as "landmark" and I can easily see why. The prose is superior, the characterisation is top notch and it is pushing the "YA edge" into more realistic and gritty territory.

Hold up on the last bit.

Is this necessarily a good thing?

Okay. I love the unexpected. I love boundaries being pushed. I love the banishing of one-dimensional characters and the ability of an author to create layers in villains and heroes and challenge our concept of what is right and wrong. Edgy YA is my zone, brothers and sisters.

So Mim has a list of "All I Never Want". And she's got a set of rules to go with it: "Don't drink, don't have sex, don't get a tattoo etc etc". The book could take the "Disney Way" ie: Mim survives the novel with her rules intact. Yay, she's a good girl. Pat on the head, my Pet. Or she could go the "Regular YA Way" ie: breaks all the rules, is still a good person for it. Yay, bad girls have rights too, Mister.

Or it could go somewhere in between. Some rules broken, some intact. Hyper-realism. Teachers, Award panels etc suddenly sit up and ears perk.

But consider this: by mixing together black and white together, do you necessarily get more shades and nuances on the tip of your literary paintbrush or do you end up with... just grey? Murky in-between undecided uncommitted fence-sitting grey grey grey.

C'mon Shirley, just get to it!

I hate how this book is blurbed and endorsed as a "gritty romance". As far as I'm concerned, there is NO romance. The boy tries to date rape Mim. Mim tries to fight him off and escapes only by a whisker when his sister opens his bedroom door. The sister of course, sees it as consensual and has feelings of shame over seeing her brother and friend like this.

Afterwards, the boy meets up with Mim and tries it on again.

Let me explain how I read every novel. Surface story doesn't faze me. The book I read directly before this was The Perks of a Wallflower (with all it's honest depictions of rape, suicide, abuse etc) and one of my favourite of all time novel is A Clockwork Orange which has far worse scenes than just a boy pining an unwilling girl down on a bed.

Subtext though, means everything.

As far as I can tell in All I Ever Wanted there are no repercussions for Jordon. After the second rebuff he just walks off into the sunset and we never hear from him again. What his sister saw in the bedroom never gets resolved and as far as I can tell, she probably thinks it's a shameful act of passion and internally blames Mim. So the only message I can take away is ... if a boy tries to rape you, then you stop having a crush on him ... that sets you free. Let's move onto the drinking and tattoo things now...

If this is the face and a new landmark of "realistic" YA, then I have nothing to say. Except maybe I am not ready for the heralding of such a momentous event.

I read to the end, although my mind was grappling wildly trying to deal with the circumstances. I remember near the start of the novel there was the mention of a noose at the watchtower. I began to hallucinate and have strange Heathers-esque fantasies where maybe at the showdown, Jordon comes back and he accidentally hangs himself. But in the final showdown, where Mim unnecessarily puts herself in more danger trying to get her package back (when others have already told her explicitly to stay out of it and it would be taken care of), she accidentally (and momentarily) HANGS HERSELF.

I am speechless. I think that one symbolism says everything.

And flicking through my mind, there is one other incident I note - when Mim and her female neighbour go to scare off a Peeping Tom, the Tom runs away and Mim ends up BEING STABBED INSTEAD BY THE OTHER GIRL (accidentally).

I know what black humour is (I mentioned Heathers just before didn't I?), but the symbolism breaks my heart.

I am not ready for this brave new frontier.

All I Ever Wanted, you are at the end of the day, a book. I know you are trying to reflect the cruel, real world for young teenage girls, but for God sake, do something, say something. I was begging you to just say something, not a social commentary or soapboxing anything (cos I know that's not your thing), but just to say personally, it's wrong. But you said nothing.

So therefore I am saying something.

Your subtext is Toxic.

I could just give this book the four stars it deserves for the prose and be the good guy, but I can't endorse this, I really can't. And if it appears like I am just some pro-censorship, "think of the children" sort of person, you have me wrong, but I know I am thinking of all the girls out there and if I am a bad guy, then it's an honour, and a privilege and my duty (Amen).

Actually, this review reminds me of something. Flannery's review of Froi of the Exiles. Flan saying something no one else dares to say because she is a virtuous woman who cares about other women. And Flan is the bravest person I know on the internet.

Sorry to all my GR friends who love this book, I mean that sincerely. If I wanted to lie, then I would have already done it ;-)

EDIT: I feel I have to clarify myself :) Ultimately, my intention is to still have readers enjoy and love this book because it is a literary piece of art and I back all the positive reviews of this book 100%. I look forward to Vikki Wakefield's next book with hope and reconciliation in my heart. I just wish to point out that the industry has a responsibility to guide authors and make responsible choices.

I will leave you with the submission criteria of a publishing house I will not disclose the name of. This is what they have to say on the topic of social responsibility and it is bang-on exactly how I feel about it all:

"We are open to the exploration or depiction of issues like sexual activity, alcohol consumption, drug use, bullying, mental health issues and death. However, the editors reserve the right to object to anything that feels gratuitous or irresponsible – we want authentic stories, but we also feel a duty of care to our teenage readers."

Hear, hear.

Okay, that is indeed all :)
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Reading Progress

01/17/2012 page 67
33.0% 5 comments
01/19/2012 page 149
74.0% "O_O This might be too edgy for marshmallow Shirley" 22 comments
01/19/2012 page 161
80.0% "Reynje, Trinity... I'm going to apologise in advance..." 20 comments
01/20/2012 page 202
100.0% "I did it Flan! I read to the end! *wipes away tears*"

Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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Reynje *flails* *hyperventilates* *watches anxiously*

I'm so happy you're reading this! Definitely one of my favourites from last year :)


Shirley Marr So far the prose is SO excellent (said in Kylie Moll voice). I love me a novel set in a rough hood! And I can't believe this is a debut, where has this writer been hiding eh? eh?


Shirley Marr As if I have the power to control you Cills! Pfft! :D


Reynje I am a confirmed Vikki Wakefield fangirl :) The writing is gorgeous.

@Cillian.. Come to the dark side! You know you want to...


Heather *Thermonuclear Bomb of Death* My best friend's name is Tahnee, too. And the cover is nice. Perhaps I shall try to get a copy . . .


message 6: by Shirley (last edited Jan 11, 2012 05:16PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Shirley Marr @ Heather - I bet your friend real-life-Tahnee is a lot classier than fictional-bogan-Tahnee! So far, I can tell I'm going to love the whole thing :)

@ Cillian. You said something my dear? *rolls dough* *opens packet of choc chips*


Shirley Marr Looks Cills, I made them kitteh shaped! Can you smell that fresh buttery chocolatey smell coming from the oven? (view spoiler)


message 8: by Trinity (new) - added it

Trinity Wonderful review Shirley, best yet.

On a less serious note
If Cath Crowley and Melina Marchetta had a baby, it would be Vikki Wakefield.
Yes. :D


message 9: by Trinity (new) - added it

Trinity Also the Jordan stuff really threw me for six as well.


Shirley Marr Thank you Trin, are you sure? *wipes away tears*.


message 11: by Shirley (last edited Jan 21, 2012 03:05AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Shirley Marr I'll never think of Jordan Knight the same ever again


message 12: by Trinity (new) - added it

Trinity I love you most when you smash your heart on the page.


Shirley Marr my heart is broken *smoosh*


message 14: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle This is a wonderful review and I admire the fact that you wrote it so well, even though this book wasn't for you.


Shirley Marr Thanks Maree! I still feel awful having written it though... :)


message 16: by ~Tina~ (new)

~Tina~ This is a terrific heartfelt and honest review and I thank-you for it Shirley! It doesn't sound like something I could like either. Bravo!


Shirley Marr Aww thank you Tina, you don't know how much your words mean to me right now!

It's easy to mark a book down when it's just bad writing, but ugh, so difficult with something like this. I could easily give it one star, but I don't want to appear reactionary and vindictive...

I was excited when I saw it described as a "gritty romance" on the back of the book cos I like offbeat romances, but this... NO. NO that is just WRONG.

*hugs Tina*


message 18: by Trinity (new) - added it

Trinity It's definitely not a romance, I didn't actually know what it was about before I read it (view spoiler) so I think that helped my expectations, in that, I had none.


SubterraneanCatalyst I have never even heard of this book and I applaud you for your review! It does take some guts to say things like this in the YA world (apparently) so bravo :)


Shirley Marr Thanks SC! To be honest I am kinda frightened, but why should anyone on GR be made to feel that way? We're offering honest, unpaid opinions that cost us a lot of time and sometimes an emotional toll. So thanks so much for your comment:)


Shirley Marr @ Trin. So true. That's how I prefer to go into a book as well :)


Shirley Marr Thank you Amreen, you are so kind. I try and write reviews that contribute something to the database on GR and the JK Rowling quote on your page sums it all up perfectly - "It is my belief... that the truth is generally preferable to lies." :)


Aly (Fantasy4eva) one of your best, Shirley. I'm so glad you wrote this review. Some of my fav bloggers rated this pretty high, but your review gave me something to think about. If I do buy this, I'll be keeping what you mentioned in mind. Thanks!


Shirley Marr Thank you, wonderful Aly. Yes, I can completely understand because if not for that one issue (which hit a huge nerve for me), I would have loved this novel without a qualm.

I would have liked to see a firmer editorial hand, as that is what editors are for - not just to pick up spelling mistakes, but to provide advice too and just a tweak or two would have mitigated the problem, I am sure of it. And be discrete about the what ends up being blurbed on the back.


Nomes Shirley, you have done such a fantastic job with this review.

I never noticed it being blurbed as a love story, even so, maybe the love story being referred to is about Mim and her mum? Or love in the gritty suburbs? I found nothing to swoon at in the book (nor do I think it was meant to be swoony).

I completely see where you're coming from, but only in hindsight, haha.

I love that you reviewed this so wonderfully, and it has given me a lot of food for though :)

x Nomes


Shirley Marr Nomes, your comments mean the world to me. I am speaking more on the side of publishing really, I've kinda figured... So please keep loving this book because as a reader you deserve to love it!

And Amreen, so do I hon, so do I :)


Shirley Marr I love how Hermione slaps Draco in the face in PoA! (possibly my favourite bit ever) I think Mim should have done the same to Jordan in this book, that might have mitigated my feelings somewhat :)


message 28: by Flannery (last edited Jan 22, 2012 09:38PM) (new) - added it

Flannery Stop talking nonsense, Shirley. If I am the bravest person you know on the internet, you clearly need to be spending more time on the internet. Wait a second, that is horrible advice. You should spend more time doing awesome things like...um...I don't know what's awesome. The other day I went on a day trip with my buds and I bought a pocket-sized kite and we flew it on the beach in 30mph winds. My face hurt but it was pretty awesome. Things like that.


Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Oh, Shirley, this is such an amazingly articulate review. After careful consideration (and you've given me much to think about), I have decided that this isn't something I could handle.
Thank you.


Shirley Marr I don't get out much Flann *hangs head*. I want... I want to fly a pocket kite... too

Thank you Maja, I feel bad. This book has a lot to offer. I promise myself I will try and redeem myself in the future with VW because this type of review isn't my style. If her next novel gets my approval, I swear I will work doubly hard to promote her:)


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

it's an interesting question: how real is too real? I would argue that people are calling it landmark precisely because jordan doesn't get his come-uppance - it is realistic - you can't have the grit and then have it all wrapped up in a pretty bow ...personally i would have been more irritated had it gone that route - actually think this book is a great one for middle class kids who've never eaten home-brand and think that bad things only happen on TV - it reminded me of sonya hartnett's all my dangerous friends - its a walk-in-her-shoes from a character who's 'in' that world as opposed to being 'introduced' to that world (and then escaping)


Adele Simmone wrote: "I would argue that people are calling it landmark precisely because jordan doesn't get his come-uppance - it is realistic"

Agreed.


message 33: by Azalia (new) - added it

Azalia where can i buy this book, amazon and barnes n nobles both dont sell it! someone help me!


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