Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"All We Ever Wanted Was Everything"

Janelle Brown, formerly a senior writer for Salon, is a freelance journalist who writes for the New York Times, Vogue, Wired, Elle, and Self, among other publications.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, and reported the following:
Thrillingly, page 69 is smack-dab in one of my favorite passages of the novel -- and among the most titillating.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is told from the viewpoint of three different characters - Janice, the mother whose husband has dumped her (for her tennis partner) on the day that his company's explosive IPO makes them rich; Margaret, her 28 year old daughter, whose failing feminist magazine has left her bankrupt; and Lizzie, her naive 14-year old daughter, whose quest for popularity is leading her down a very unfortunate path.

Page 69 falls in a Lizzie chapter, right when Lizzie is about to lose her virginity:

By the spring of her freshman year, it seemed like Lizzie had been dying to lose her virginity forever. She felt it hanging like a yoke around her neck. Girls in her class had been bragging about their sexual conquests for years: starting with Frenching and feel-ups in the sixth grade, moving on to blow jobs and fingering (a phrase she found both obscene and banal - some cross between an alien probe and playing the piano) by eighth, and then, once they reached high school, going "all the way." It happened like clockwork: There would be a party at somebody's house over the weekend - the parents having disappeared for a vacation in Hawaii, graciously enabling their children to roll a keg into the chaperone-free living room - and on Monday, girls would show up at school with squared shoulders and fresh familiarity with the male anatomy. ("Oh my God, his penis, like, curved!" "He -- so gross -- had hair on his back!") They dropped like flies all freshman year, judging by the conversation in the girls' locker room. Virginity flew out the window, blossoms of used condoms bloomed in wastepaper baskets all across town, sheets were furtively dumped in spin cycles with extra bleach before Mom and Dad's town car picked them up at the airport.

Lizzie wanted it so badly she was almost embarrassed. It wasn't like she believed that losing her virginity was somehow going to be a ticket to womanhood -- just like getting her period for the first time had been more of a messy pain in the ass than the entree to some feminine sisterhood that Margaret had promised. It was more that she wanted to be in the inner circle, to have those terms -- clitoris? smegma? pearl necklace? -- mean something to her, too. You either knew or you faked it, and she was tired of faking it, tired of nodding sagely while she listened in, uninvited, to another whispered tale of deflowering or requited lust, as if she could totally relate, when in fact she couldn't...

Needless to say, Lizzie goes on to make some very regrettable decisions.

Thematically, this resonates with the rest of the novel: About the desire for social success, the drive to be accepted and loved, the disconnect between parents and their children, and the dark underbelly of the mythically perfect suburbia.
Read an excerpt from All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, and watch the video trailer.

Learn more about the book and author at Janelle Brown's website and her blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue