Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Everything I Was by Corinne Demas

Publisher:Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint:Carolrhoda Lab
Pub Date:04/01/2011

Reading Level: 5
Interest Level: 6-10
Ages: 11-16

Author:Corinne Demas

"My walls were stripped, and all that was left in the room was a pile of boxes and my mattress propped against the wall."

So begins Irene's journey from an Upper West Side penthouse to—well, she's not entirely sure where. Irene's investment banker father is "downsized" when his company merges with another. When he can't find work, her family's lifestyle—and her socialite mother's spending—quickly catches up with them. Eventually, they're forced to move in with Irene's grandfather in the big family farmhouse upstate. But what begins as the most disastrous summer of her life takes a surprising turn when she meets a most remarkable family.
Everything I Was is the story of a young woman deciding what she wants for herself after she thought she'd lost everything.

I'm a lover of realistic fiction. If you've read my other reviews, you already know this.  But this book caught my interest because it's so timely.  How many teens now are disrupted because their parents have lost their jobs? When I was a teen back in the *cough, cough*...well, okay, when I was a teen, I nearly faced the same dilemma. I was fifteen when my father lost his job.  Immediately, my parents began talking of options.  All I heard was: MOVING!  All my high school sweet heart heard was: MOVING!  It was a very traumatic time for me and I'm thankful to today read a story that exemplifies my 'what could have been'.

Description:  Corinne Demas has a great talent for providing detail with few words.  Her descriptions are quick, interesting and instantly place the reader exactly where she should be.  I did not get skip paragraphs or words to move the story along.  I loved how she set the scene in my mind without telling me exactly what to think.  (Score: 8/10)

Narrative:  There's a wonderful mix of narrative and dialogue.  The balance is perfect.  The inner thoughts of the main character is varied, emotional and interesting.  It's a simple read, as it should be for its designated age level. The story moves along at a steady pace, neither dragging nor leaving the reader behind.  Very little is predictable and yet, as the reader I felt comfortable immersing myself in Corinne Demas's words.  (Score: 8/10)

Dialogue:  The verbal exchanges in Everything I Was is focused, purposeful and entertaining.  Not only does the reader learn things about the characters, but sometimes I actually learned things about myself.  And that to me is great.  The questions raised really made me thing and apply the situation to myself.  Overall, I was forced to feel...and I loved it!  (Score: 9/10)

Characterization:  I have to admit, I expected Irene to be older than her character actually is.  I'm not sure if it was the cover that led to that conclusion or her character's portrayal-her thoughts are deep and well developed.  And so are all the supporting characters. So when some of the interactions seemed a little immature, I was momentarily taken aback.  But in the end, it fit.  It turned out to be my favorite component in this book.  (I can't tell you HOW irritating it is to read the opposite.)  ALL the characters were easily identified by their personalities, some likeable and some not.  (Score: 9/10)

Resolution:  Climax and ending are key points that I'm studying right now in my writing, so I tend to pay particular attention to it.  What I've learned from Everything I Was is the beauty of the gentle character arc.  Irene grows slowly and subtly.  She thinks.  She learns.  She accepts.  It's not dramatic nor is the issue at hand truly resolved, but as the reader, I felt complete.  To me, THAT is real life and THAT is how realistic fiction should end.  When do we ever have all the answers?  We don't.  Corinne Demas must know this and integrated it with excellent talent.  (Score: 9/10)

Everything I Was is a sweet, realistic story.  It's timely, sensitive and thought provoking.  Irene's voice is distinct. Corinne Demas does not speak down to nor about teens.  It was a pleasure to read and review this book. I'd recommend this book to tweens and even some teens that could relate to this experience.  It's so well written, I may even tell adults who have kids in this situation to read it as well.  I really think it gives great insight to the thought process of a group stereotypically  called egocentric.  I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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