I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again in the future: I love Aussie YA. I can’t help it, there are just so many great authors in the land down under. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been curious about All I Eve Wanted by Vikki Wakefield since I first heard about it, when glowing reviews from Aussie bloggers started popping up all over the blogosphere. I knew I was in for a treat when I finally got the chance to read this one.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Mim knows what she wants, and where she wants to go — anywhere but home, stuck in the suburbs with her mother who won’t get off the couch, and two brothers in prison. She’s set herself rules to live by, but she’s starting to break them.
Now Mim has to retrieve a lost package for her mother.
Does this make her a drug runner?
Why is a monster dog called Gargoyle hidden in the back shed?
And Jordan, the boy she sent Valentines to for years, why is he now suddenly a creep?
How come there’s a huge gap between her and her best friend, Tahnee?
And who is the mysterious girl next door who moans at night?
Over the nine days before her seventeenth birthday, Mim’s life turns upside down. She has problems, and she’s determined to solve them herself. But in the end, she works out who her people are, and the same things look entirely different.
I kept being surprised by how beautiful the writing is in Vikki Wakefield’s debut novel. It’s the kind of writing that jumps out of the page, grabs you and makes you pause because you just want to savor the words. All Mim ever wanted was a way out of her life. She’s done her best to be a good girl by staying away from illegal activities that her mom and brothers engage in, mostly because that’s what they know how to do and that’s what brings food to the table. Mim has her own set of rules that she hopes will lead her in a different direction from that kind of life. She dreams of traveling and visiting places that she’s only read about in books. For someone like me, who grew up in the Philippines, reading about what poverty is like in a first world country like Australia is enlightening. I know that so many people back home dream about a better life in another country. Some of my own friends even aspire to live in Australia, specifically (and I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind doing that either if it means I’d have access to so many wonderful novels). In this sense, All I Ever Wanted reminded me of one of my favorite reads last year, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols. The same kind of yearning to move beyond the current reality is present in both books. I loved so many passages and I want to highlight a sample:
“God, who lives like this? There must be families who eat together and speak to each other with respect. There must be couples who love each other but don’t have sex. There must be friends who can have a disagreement without screaming at each other and breaking up. Friends who don’t change overnight and turn into complete opposites of each other.
It’s almost funny. My rules are clacking over like dominoes but I’ve never felt so alive. I want to cry and scream in the middle of the street, just like Mum when she loses it. I want to smash things with a golf club. I want to spin my life like a bottle and see where I end up because any place would be better than here.”
Isn’t that just lovely? Certain passages in this book just made me sigh in happiness. As much as I love romance in the stories that I read, I was able to appreciate that All I Ever Wanted was light in that aspect. It focused more on friendship, family and what happens when you let your guard down and let people in. Mim may feel like her life is bleak but I never felt burdened by her story. I felt like the book had the right balance of hope and despair. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary YA, I’ve marked this title as one of best ones that I’ve read this year. Vikki Wakefield is an author worth watching out for. I cannot wait to read her second novel, Friday Brown. All I Ever Wanted and Friday Brown can be purchased through Text Publishing or Fishpond, both of which have free international delivery.