Title: Everything I Was
Author: Corinne Demas
Concepts: unemployment, budget constraints, consumption, wealth, opportunity cost, auctions
Review: All thirteen-year-old Irene had known growing up in a wealthy Manhattan household revolved around privilege, including nannies, private schooling, fine meals, a beautiful penthouse apartment, and nice vacations. Irene never thought much about her fortunate circumstances until her father lost his high-salary executive position following a corporate merger and had trouble finding a new job. Irene's mother was particularly reluctant to give up such a luxurious lifestyle, so the family savings drained quickly until, as Irene's father put it, they were flat broke.
Before Irene could really grasp what had happened, her parents had auctioned off a number of their valuables, sold the penthouse, put the rest of their belongings in storage, and moved in with her grandfather on his upstate farm. With everything unraveling around her, Irene began to question her sense of identity and belonging. It would take a blossoming relationship with her grandfather and a new set of friendships to help her gain a fresh perspective on family and a desire to start making choices for herself.
With its focus on a family at the upper tier of the socioeconomic ladder, this novel puts an interesting spin on the theme of job loss and family hardship. Most of the character development revolves around Irene as her parents are rather one-dimensional throughout most of the book, with the father appearing to have little backbone and the mother refusing to change her expensive ways. The main character, however, goes through a period of rapid maturation as economic necessity spurs her to seriously consider who and what really matter in her life.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children