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All We Ever Wanted Was Everything Hardcover – May 27, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Brown's withering Silicon Valley satire, a family wakes up on a June day to realize that patriarch Paul's company has hit the big time with a phenomenal IPO. But instead of rejoicing about being newly rich, the family's three women each find themselves in the throes of a major crisis. Paul has fled with his new amour, who happens to be wife Janice's tennis partner. Desperate housewife Janice discovers the soothing power of the pool boy's drug stash and sinks into addiction and denial. Meanwhile, 20-something daughter Margaret learns the price of living a Hollywood lifestyle on an artsy hipster's budget—gargantuan credit card debt. Finally, 14-year-old Lizzie wades deeper and deeper into a sea of adolescent trouble without an adult to confide in. From the ashes of their California dreams, the three must learn to talk to each other instead of past each other, and build a new, slightly more realistic existence—but not without doses of revenge and hilarity. Brown's hip narrative reads like a sharp, contemporary twist on The Corrections. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

"Brown's winning debut teaches a hopeful truth: Sometimes, just as you're starting to drown, things fall back into place."

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is as addictive as the meth on which Janice gets quickly hooked...Its unapologetically soapy mix of teen sex, quarter-life crisis, food porn and mean-girl politics makes it, like Santa Rita itself, perfect for June: a summery, old-fashioned page turner."

"A sinful treat."
Santa Cruz Sentinel

"Janelle Brown expertly takes the social temperature of those gated communities exclusive to new money and finds a chill that inhabits the growth of family life...[a] beauty of a book"
New York Daily News

"A killer summer read."
Daily Candy

A withering Silicon Valley satire . . . From the ashes of their California dreams, the three [women] must learn to talk to each other instead of past each other, and build a new, slightly more realistic existence—but not without doses of revenge and hilarity. Brown's hip narrative reads like a sharp, contemporary twist on The Corrections.”
Publishers Weekly

A razor-sharp critique of the absurd expectations that, these days, have come to stand for ambition, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is wrenching, riveting, and still manages to be great fun. This is a wise, intimate chronicle of one family’s struggle to take off their masks and live in the place they most feared: the real, imperfect world.”
—Meghan Daum, author of The Quality of Life Report

“Rarely does a first novelist write with such confidence and grace. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is a marvelous book.”
—Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

“Janelle Brown's beautiful debut explores the tiny fissures in our lives and what happens when those fissures erupt into chasms. Excruciatingly funny, unrelentingly painful—this extraordinary book gives us something only the best novels can: a glimpse of what it means to be human.”
—Katherine Taylor, author of Rules for Saying Goodbye

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524018
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,787,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janelle Brown is the author of the nationally bestselling ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING, published in May 2008 by Spiegel & Grau, as well as in a dozen other countries across the world. An essayist and journalist, her writing appears regularly in Vogue, The New York Times, Elle, Wired, Self, The Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications. Previously, she spent five years as a senior writer at Salon, covering a diverse range of subjects -- from Internet culture to the war on drugs, pop culture to style, public policy issues and the digital music movement-- and began her career as a staff writer at Wired, working on seminal Web sites like HotWired and Wired News during the heydey of the dotcom boom. In the 1990's, she was also the editor and co-founder of Maxi, an irreverent (and now, long-gone) women's pop culture magazine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, filmmaker Greg Harrison.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amy Tiemann VINE VOICE on June 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Janelle Brown's debut novel pulls back the curtain on "the good life" in Silicon Valley. Just as Janice Miller's family reaches for their moment of triumph as her husband's pharmaceutical company goes public, making the Millers multimillionaires on paper, Janice's world crumbles around her in a day.

The story covers the following summer as Janice slides into despair, along with her fourteen-year-old daughter Lizzie, who is looking for validation in all the wrong places; and her former wunderkind daughter Margaret, now 28, who is returning home from Los Angeles, in debt and without direction, after her feminist magazine has failed. Janice's husband Paul is a mere phantom in the story, practically gone before he left, an entitled, ruthless, self-proclaimed "libertarian" Wizard of Oz figure.

Janelle Brown's keen eye for detail and razor-sharp wit keep the story afloat, but there is little but despair and missed chances for connection between the Miller women. I am giving the book 5 stars based on its literary merit, but as a reader I wished that the story had continued a little farther down the path of redemption and transformation. Perhaps it was a braver artistic choice not to make it that easy for the characters or the book's readers.

As sad as these three women are, on a metaphorical level I recognized a part of myself in each of them. Brown takes each woman to the edge of destruction, but she always maintains a sliver of their essential humanity. The bonds between mother, daughter, sister are stretched to the limit but do not break.

This would be an intriguing book club read. I'd love to talk with others about ambition, feminism, judgment, redemption, and the complex nature of Brown's attitude toward her characters.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A. Reader on May 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read Brown's book "Everything They Ever Wanted Is Everything" in a single sitting. Its completely gripping -- alternating between a quick-paced narrative that's deftly edited and hilarious social observation. Brown's subject is ambition, in this case of her three female protagonists: Margaret, a flailing feminist 'zine editor in Los Angeles, who keeps up appearances using credit card debt; her little sister, Lizzie, so mired in teenage sexual angst she bounces from being the school slut to a born-again christian; and their mother, Janice, an epicurian country-club member blind-sided by her wealthy husband's decision to divorce. The father's departure sets the novel in motion, and each woman's attempts to keep up appearances is the narrative's engine. The backdrop of the story is Santa Rita, a Silicon Valley-esque Californian town that sizzles with keeping-up-with-the-Jones's nosiness and consumption. Brown succeeds in evoking cliches and then breaking them with great humor -- clearly getting "Everything" requires her characters to come through personal crises quite scathed but with a new sense of of their own wit and worth.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Douglas A. Greenberg VINE VOICE on June 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I confess that I was drawn to this novel partly by its catchy title, and I picked it up on impulse at Costco (of all places!) But I am incredibly glad I made this purchase, as this is a sharp, fabulously written, insightful novel from a writer about whom I think we will be hearing for some time to come.

*All We Ever Wanted Was Everything* is edgy social satire that incorporates withering, significant social criticism. It's a draw-you-in read that never becomes tiresome. I was sorry to see it end!

Its main focus is the problems and inner lives of three principal female characters (sorry, you can't have everything; men are definitely relegated to the background here). Each of the Miller women represents a recognizable type within contemporary American society, revealing how even "having it all" does not mean that life becomes easy or uncomplicated. Clearly, a major theme here is that behind the facade of wealth, success, and comfort, people (in this case, women) who live the American Dream in places like the Santa Clara Valley struggle and suffer in a variety of ways.

For me, the most impressive characteristic of Brown's narrative is her uncanny ability to "get inside the heads" of her characters, thinking along with them as they react to events and rationalize their sometimes self-destructive behaviors. Brown is able to reproduce the inner voices of a fifty-ish career executive wife, a former academic *wunderkindt* turned frustrated feminist social critic, and a bufuddled, love-starved teenager. Their confused, sometimes pathological behaviors somehow come to "make sense" within the sharply drawn context of who they conceive themselves to be and the ways they perceive their life-situations.

In short, this is a terrific, funny, intelligent novel that is both entertaining and insightful. Janelle Brown can flat-out write. I look forward to her next novel with eager anticipation.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on May 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
Luckily I listened to this book on CD, all 12 of them. The characters in this book give you no reason to like them. They are all self absorbed and unkind. And then when you finally get to possibly thinking the mother will be someone of substance, the ending leaves all the issues hanging. If I had known that I wouldn't have finished it. It became boring on the 4th disc but I struggled through to hear how things would work out and then at the end.... nothing. I saw on the main review that this book was "witty and a satire". There wasn't anything "witty" about it. It was actually a sad commentary on how ignorant people can be.
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