All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield
I will finish school. I will not take drugs. I will not get tattoos. I will not drink alcohol. I will not say ‘fuck’ all the time. I will not have sex until I’m over 18. I will not be like everybody else. I will only trust myself. One day I will leave this place and never come back. I will not turn out like my mother.
Mim is nearly seventeen. Her volatile and formidable mother spends her days dealing drugs. Both of her half-brothers are already in jail. But Mim has a plan to get out of her suburban nightmare. Unfortunately, she’s also just broken one of her own rules and done a drug pickup to help her mum out.
When Jordan, the boy she’s loved for years, steals the package from her, Mim now has two goals:
1) get the package back before her mother realises it’s gone, and
2) get the hell out of Dodge.
I loved this book. Wakefield is a beautiful, lyrical writer. The grit of Mim’s suburban life is rendered so clearly it’s almost impossible not to feel it as you read, and Wakefield has a superior talent for crystalising the essence of ordinary things into something beautiful.
“I can feel my face burning brown, taste vinegar and chips, smell the odour of hot tar and old oil baked into the melting road... A lost street in a forgotten suburb, an hour from the city. Low, chicken-wire fences that don’t keep anything, or out. Corrugated-iron roofs that peel and flap in the wind.”
As a protagonist, Mim is wonderful—determined and tough but also vulnerable and kind-hearted. (Only someone with a sweet soul would have a whistling match with an old drunk.) As the story progresses, following Mim further into trouble as she tries to retrieve the package while negotiating a teenage minefielf of emotions , the curtains of her narrative pull back, gradually revealing the split between her self-view and the way she is perceived by others, as well as the duality of the people she knows... or thinks she knows.
I loved the subtle exploration of Mim’s relationships, from the awkwardness of a new friendship with Jordan’s nerdgirl sister Kate to the struggles with Mim’s best friend Tahnee as she embarks on a sexual relationship, leaving Mim behind. Wakefield perfectly captures the inexplicable divide that begins between friends at this point.
“There are beats of silence and a great gap between us, as if she’s been away for a year and come back different.”
Central to the story is Mim’s spiky relationship with her mother, who is the spiritual and physical embodiment of all that Mim dreads becoming. Within many of their moments together, Wakefield reminds us of the myopia with which teenagers view the world, and the acts which seem so rebellious and necessary at the time but look like petulant hissyfitting to adults.
If you want to read a YA novel that’s got some real depth coupled with resonant themes of identity and family, or if you’re tired of Help! I’m In Love With a Hot Zombie Vampire fiction, or if you just want to read something that’s beautifully written regardless of genre, grab a copy of All I Ever Wanted.
p.s. Vikki Wakefield’s blog is also an interesting read—check it out!