Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard
Harper • $14.99 • ISBN 9780062080066
On sale October 11, 2011

I know we're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I have to say that I picked up Everything We Ever Wanted because the jacket is so wonderfully evocative of autumn. After spending some time inside the book, though, I'm happy to report that this novel has more going for it than just a pretty picture.

No doubt, you have heard of Sara Shepard because of her Pretty Little Liars series (and the ABC Family TV show based on the books). I think it's pretty cool that Shepard writes adult books (this is her second), since we so often hear about authors going in the other direction—see: Meg Wolitzer, James Patterson, John Grisham, Harlan Coben.

This story is a family drama filled with plenty of twists and buried secrets. In it, the wealthy Sylvie Bates-McAllister's life is rocked when Scott, her adopted adult son who is a wrestling coach, is implicated in a school hazing incident. The kicker? Sylvie's grandfather founded the school, and Sylvie sits on the board. Meanwhile, Sylvie's biological son, Charles, is having some troubles of his own, as wife Joanna wonders how she married her way into the stuffy family in the first place.

This story is similar to J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine in that it's told from multiple personalities within a complicated family, and it's about atoning for past mistakes.

Here's an excerpt from early on in the story, soon after Joanna and Charles find out about Scott's alleged crime:

It was the next day, as they were on their way to Charles's childhood home, when Joanna dared to bring it up again. "So, is your mom worried about her place on the board?" she asked.

Charles gave her a sidelong glance. "Why would she be worried?"

Joanna sighed. Fine, he was going to make her spell this out. "Because of that boy's suicide. Because of—you know—what people are saying. I thought you said the school was superjudgmental. If one family member's bad, they're all blacklisted.

"Why would you think that?" Charles said.

"I don't know," she said, adding, "I didn't go to that school, Charles. Remember? I don't know what to think about it."

"Well, you should know better than to think that."

Charles had recently had his hair cut, the ends now hung bluntly just above his ears, reminding her of the crisp bristles of a broom. He still went to the same barber who'd cut his hair when he was a boy. He was fiercely loyal in that way, patronizing the same business establishments for years, diligently keeping in touch with old prep-school friends, and even remaining faithful to inanimate, unresponsive things, such as old jogging routes and brands of breakfast cereals.

"And anyway, I don't think it's going to go very far. It's just a stupid rumor," Charles said as they swept past a large vacant lot that sold Christmas trees in December. "You know how kids talk."

Are you interested in reading Everything We Ever Wanted? What are you reading today?

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