Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted [Book Review]

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In Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted (release date 26 June 2018) Nina and Kirk Browning are a well-off couple with one son named Finch. Finch, a senior in high school, has just been accepted to Princeton. While at a gala honoring Nina and Kirk for their work with the suicide prevention organization in their community, Nina gets disturbing news from a friend of her friend named Melanie. Melanie’s son, Beau, had a party and at this party, inappropriate pictures were taken of a girl who was unconscious and an exposed breast. Melanie also tells Nina that her son Finch is responsible for the photo. Not only is he responsible for the photo but also sharing the photo with other people. The unconscious person in the photo is Lyla Volpe, who comes from the other side of the tracks.

Both Finch and Lyla attend Winsor Academy, a private school to be afforded by the rich, The Brownings, and barely afforded by people like Thomas Volpe, a blue-collar worker who does all he can to ensure his daughter gets the best education she can.

The school’s headmaster is Walter Quarterman, who is aware of the photo who is now requesting a disciplinary hearing be held to determine if Finch will remain at the school or be expelled. Kirk Browning is more concerned with Princeton possibly revoking his son’s acceptance that the photo of Lyla and does what Kirk does best; pays someone off in hopes of all this going away. But his time, his tactics won’t work.


It’s always been known that the rich get away with everything in life, from felonies to misdemeanours and school pranks. All We Ever Wanted explores both sides of the road, the well off and the not so well off, and how both are locked in the confines of their lives.

When you’re well off, you run in certain circles and have friends that are more interested in keeping up appearances than doing the right thing. When living on the other side of the road, you’re limited on what you can buy, where you can live, and at times, being looked down upon by those with large bank accounts.


Nine didn’t grow up with money, but Kirk did. He comes from old money. His values are different than Nina’s. And though Nina enjoys the perks of having money, she never lost sight of her values. Or at least she thought she didn’t. It’s not until the issue with Finch comes about that Nina realizes who her true friends are and see her husband for who he really is, and what her son is soon to become.

Kirk, having always been around money and knows what money can do for you, doesn’t seem to have values. At least true values. When Kirk needs to resolve an issue, he uses the money to do and he seems to be passing these lessons onto  Finch. Realizing this, Nina is devastated by the blind eye she’s turned at Kirk’s antics through the years. Confronted with this realization and the attitude of her friends, especially Melanie’s, whose son Beau is responsible for throwing the party which leads to the inappropriate photo being shared, Nina wants to do what’s right and not what is expected of her.


Thomas Volpe, or Tom as he’s known, grew up without money. He’s a hardworking carpenter who believes in making your way through life by hard work and a good education. He has raised his daughter on his own since birth and thought he had instilled good judgments and values in his daughter. To a point he has. But when you’re surrounded by money at Windsor Academy and your best friend has money, sometimes it’s hard to keep those values in check. And being a teenager, when acceptance is a priority at times, judgments go out the window.


Nina and Thomas do meet up to discuss the situation with their kids and Finch’s upcoming hearing. They both find they have more in common than they think despite the amount of money in their bank and the size of the houses they live in.


Overall, I enjoyed the book. I like how the chapters were broken down and written through the eyes of Nina, Tom and Tom’s daughter, Lyla. I’m not sure why Kirk and Finch weren’t given chapters, as it would have been nice to see things through their eyes. Though nothing they said could justify either’s actions, but perspectives from all involved should have been included. Just my two cents.

There were two chapters I didn’t bother reading. One was when Nina went back to home to visit her parents and her old boyfriend Teddy. And the other is when Tom went to visit a friend, Lyla didn’t know about. I didn’t see the point of these two chapters. I feel they could have been incorporated in the chapters when it was either Nina talking or Tom talking. Meaning, they could have been a quick paragraph or two in each other’s chapters, and not an entire chapter. Neither visits, to me, added to the story as a whole.

There were other factors and other people who had a hand in everything that went on, before, during and after the photo incident. Giffin shows the readers that having money doesn’t mean life is perfect. If anything, she shows that money comes with more problems and more pressure to be accepted. I personally disagree, but I digress.

The Epilogue brought everything together, as you didn’t know what happened at the end of the book. You didn’t know if Finch was expelled or if he got away with what he did. It also explores the lives of those after everything was said and done.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and recommend it to all avid and non-avid readers.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin | Release Date: 26 June 2018 | Publish: Random House Publishing Group: Ballantine Books | 352 pages Emily’s other books: Something Borrowed, and First Comes Love

You can pre-order the book by clicking on the following link:

All We Ever Wanted: A Novel

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