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Everything I Was

Everything I Was

By: Corinne Demas
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: April 2011
ISBN: 978-0761373032
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 16, 2011

Irene was hearing little whispers, but when she heard little lies she started to listen more closely. Her father, Leland, became increasingly uptight and when he wanted to cancel their annual vacation she knew there was something wrong. They went anyway, but when Bryce-Morehouse, a company where her father was vice-president, was considering a merger any fool could see a layoff coming. Irene’s mother told her that Daddy wouldn’t lose his job and that everything would be just fine. Wrong. Her mother, Andie, was dead wrong about everything and Irene thought to herself that “It was her lies that frightened me the most.” Treasured artwork was disappearing from the walls, her mother cut out her health club membership, and her father was even cleaning. What next?

They were going to move from Manhattan and leave everything behind for some podunk town to live with her grandfather, Arthur. That’s what was next. Irene’s best friends Eve and Frankie thought it sucked that she had to move and she simply “wanted to be invisible.” Her mother was all about keeping up with appearances, but her father finally admitted they were “flat-out broke.” Andie had “always been an expert at confusing luxuries for necessities,” but when the Jaguar was sold and she ended up in a place she detested it struck home. Irene’s grandfather sensed she would be lost and fixed her up an old bicycle, a cozy nook in the barn, and encouraged her to get out and check out the neighborhood. She was tentative, but when she saw some kids she thought that maybe the move wouldn’t be so bad after all.

There were five kids in one house … Jim, Meg, Stover, Lolly, and Theo. Fourteen-year-old Meg was only a year older than Irene and they almost immediately became close friends because they “had recently been separated from [their] best friends.” It was the type of family and house that would have made her mother wince, but there was something special there. Jim was so incredibly friendly and handsome. “Good day, Irene.” Maybe he liked her, but she didn’t want to admit she kind of liked him. She loved digging her hands into the dirt in her grandfather’s “plant nursery,” but she started to think, “It was as if I was a different person as soon as I got off my bike and entered Meg’s house.” Was she falling in love with a totally new way of life? Did money and status really matter? But more importantly, was she falling in love with Jim? Was he falling in love with her?

Many people, both young and old, have to start over again when jobs are lost, something that is more common that we’d like these days. Irene, like many young people, had no say or choice in the matter and began to question her very existence prior to the layoff. The tale is very well written and when Irene wonders, “But how had that happened? Was everything we had not really ours? And the life that we’d led, was none of it real?” it’s precisely how many are feeling during our economic upheaval. This is a coming-of-age story, but as I read I felt that it was a reflection of our times and more importantly delineated the importance of how our young are being tossed to the winds as well. It’s a powerful story of life, love, and resilience you really might want to add to your list!

Quill says: This is an amazing story of a young teen who has to start over again when her life is upended.

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