Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard
Published by Harper Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins
Review copy provided by the publisher in conjunction with TLC Book Tours

The Bates-McAllister family is shaken by the news that one of them may be implicated in the death of a local high school boy. Scott, who was adopted into the family at age two and as a result has always felt like the outcast, is the one potentially connected to the death as the coach of the boy’s wrestling team. His older brother Charles is inspired by this scandal to dredge up memories from his past he’d long kept buried. Charles’ wife, Joanna, begins to see the Bates-McAllister family (a family she’d always dreamed of being a part of) in a completely different light. And Scott and Charles’ mother, Sylvie, is as unmoored as possible – since the death of her husband a few months prior she hadn’t been the same, and this scandal has left her feeling scared and helpless. This whole family must confront their shared past and long-hidden secrets in order to stay together throughout the challenges they are now facing.

I know that Sara Shepard is known for her YA novels, and  while I enjoyed The Lying Game (the book) and love Pretty Little Liars (the TV show), I fell in love with Shepard’s writing and characterization in her first adult novel, The Visibles. So it goes without saying that I had high hopes for Everything We Ever Wanted. Luckily, I got exactly what I was expecting with this novel and more. As I had anticipated, Shepard is a master at creating flawed but likable characters and her writing is such a pleasure to take in. I put myself on a huge time crunch to finish this book (my own procrastination plus the fact that life just got in the way) and I easily and happily finished it in the one sitting I allowed myself. Everything We Ever Wanted was everything I ever wanted (pun intended, and yes I’m feeling a bit silly today).

There were many things I loved about this novel, but the most important would have to be the characters. Everything We Ever Wanted is more character-driven than plot-driven (although there is a distinct plot, don’t get me wrong) and the characters were extremely well thought-out. I felt that I understood each one of them intimately, and while they were all flawed and sometimes didn’t have the best intentions or made the best choices, I felt a deep compassion for what they were each going through individually. I would have to say that the character I connected with the least was Charles, but towards the end I felt for him a little bit more – there were some major secrets people in his life were keeping from him and I think his personality would have been much different had he been privy to some of that knowledge. I latched onto Scott from the beginning. He actually reminded me of a very close family member, and as I was reading the novel I felt that he was a tortured soul, misunderstood and judged by his family and most everyone else in his lifed. The two women in the story – Joanna and Sylvie – definitely resonated with me as well, in different ways, and while Shepard painted them both as being blind to certain things, they were highly intelligent and capable women and I was able to respect both of them.

While the characters of this novel were the huge sticking point for me, the plot of Everything We Ever Wanted was very engaging and kept me guessing. I had a pretty good idea of how Scott was involved in the student’s death, and I ended up being right, but the bigger plot points were the family secrets that didn’t surface until the end of the book. Shepard created a nice balance between dropping hints to the reader as to the truths in the Bates-McAllister family’s past and keeping things pretty hidden from the reader (and most of the characters) until the very end. I definitely had my own ideas about what would be revealed in the end, but Shepard still kept me guessing. I liked that quite a bit.

The last thing I want to touch on is the writing. I really enjoyed reading Shepard’s writing in Everything We Ever Wanted – it isn’t over the top, showy, or flowery by any means, but it is beautiful in its own way. It propels the plot along nicely but also inspired an emotional reaction from me.

I highly recommend Everything We Ever Wanted. I loved so much about this book and if you are not a fan of YA novels, please don’t discount Sara Shepard as an author! While her YA series are extremely popular and very well done, her adult novels are completely different from those and absolutely excellent. Give this author a try!