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Everything I Was

Everything I WasBy Corinne Demas

Carolrhoda Lab
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Everything I Was, by Corinne Demas, is a perfect example of why you should not judge a book by its cover. Now that I’ve read the book I know the location in the picture, which is not that critical to the story and in fact leads a potential reader astray from the actual story. Of course I know who the girl is but the face gives the impression of an older teen, closer to maybe 16 years old, which is a good three years older than the main character in the book. And, I can wax on poetically about the symbolism of a girl with her face halfway submerged in water. But I won’t because I don’t think the story is quite that deep nor was it meant to be. Now don’t get me wrong, Everything I Was is a wonderful book. The plot is well structured and the story is believable and the characters are realistic.

So who is the girl on the cover? She’s Irene, a 13-year-old who lives on the upper east side in Manhattan in a penthouse apartment with her parents. Irene goes to a private school, vacations at all the right places, attends all the right summer camps, wears all the right clothes, and has all the right friends. Life is great for Irene and for her parents, especially her mother who is all about having everything and everything “just right” no matter the costs. Besides, that’s what Henri Bendel is for, right? To shop!

Well, shop no more. Straight out of today’s headlines Irene’s father is downsized out of his job. And Irene and her family are downsized accordingly, right out of their affluent lifestyle and onto her grandfather’s farm – like, a million miles away from civilization!

Irene is uprooted like a plant and expected to grow and flourish as if nothing has changed. Except everything has changed and there is nothing she can do. Her world is completely out of her control. Luckily for Irene, she has a grandfather who understands her fears. He provides the right amount of encouragement to help her make new friends and make her new surroundings her own. Unfortunately, Irene makes one decision for herself and it’s not a good one. Kids, don’t worry, the story doesn’t focus on her mistake. Instead the focus is on her parents and how they could have done more to listen and truly hear Irene’s fears about their new situation and how their decisions affected Irene. Irene’s story does have a happy ending but not the one you might expect.

I found myself thoroughly engaged in Irene’s story and curious about what would happen next. Would she make new friends? Would she rebel against her parents? Would she make more wrong choices? Would she be able to start a new life in a world 180° from what was familiar? Corinne Demas created realistic characters with believable problems and likely circumstances and solutions. This is also a quick read, one you can enjoy just before the new school year hits full stride.

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