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Everything I Was

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Overview

"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 father, a corporate VP, is "downsized" when his company merges with another. When he can't find work, her family's lifestyle—and her mother's spending—quickly catches up with them. Eventually, they're forced to move in with Irene's grandfather in the family farmhouse upstate. But what ...

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Everything I Was

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Overview

"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 father, a corporate VP, is "downsized" when his company merges with another. When he can't find work, her family's lifestyle—and her mother's spending—quickly catches up with them. Eventually, they're forced to move in with Irene's grandfather in the family farmhouse upstate. But what begins as the most disastrous summer of Irene's life takes a surprising turn, and Irene must decide what she wants for herself after losing everything she was.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thirteen-year-old Irene's world is turned upside down when her father loses his job as an investment banker because of a merger. Her penthouse lifestyle in New York City's Upper West Side is over. Despite her socialite mother's protests and denial about their financial situation, the family put their belongings in storage and move upstate into Irene's grandfather's farmhouse. At first Irene is skeptical and resentful, but she quickly warms up to helping her grandfather in the greenhouse, exploring the cozy barn and making new friendships with a charming family with five kids who live down the road. But Irene's mother is still determined to return to the city, and the question remains: if and when the time comes, will Irene want to go back to her former life? Having written for picture book, middle-grade, and adult audiences, Demas's first book for teens presents an authentic if occasionally precious and melodramatic portrait of country life, economic stress, and the tensions associated with a major life change. Irene's budding independence and inner strength add greatly to this absorbing coming-of-age tale. Ages 11–16. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Mary Bowman-Kruhm Ed.D.
The cover of a young girl with her head above water well symbolizes the plot of this novel. When Irene's father loses his job, the family moves to the grandfather's farm north of New York City and, with it, loses their expensive Manhattan lifestyle. Irene and her father are willing to adapt but her mother's snobbish behavior and spendthrift ways that kept the family from saving during good times are an irritant to Irene, her father, and grandfather. Told in the first person, Irene feels everything has gone wrong in her life until a large, casual family living near her grandfather soon welcomes her friendship and she learns that quality of life means more than material possessions and a prestigious private school. Her father and grandfather support her decision to live with her grandfather during the next school year and, in that way, take control of her own life, since the alternative her mother insisted on was moving with her parents to an expensive but cramped apartment. The mother, whose selfishness and desire to control have been a continuing thread throughout the book, seems to acquiesce and change her pattern of behavior too readily. However, the other characters are realistically portrayed and Irene's story should resonate with many teens whose families suddenly face difficult economic struggles. Reviewer: Mary Bowman-Kruhm, Ed.D.
ALAN Review - Laura Hermann
Thirteen-year-old Irene is shocked when financial troubles force her parents to sell their Manhattan penthouse and move the family to her grandfather's farm for the summer. As she struggles to fit into her new surroundings, make new friends, and negotiate a relationship with her demanding mother, Irene begins to rethink many of the things she has always taken for granted. Eventually, she must choose between everything she was, and everything she is realizing she needs. In Everything I Was, Demas presents a likeable narrator trying to negotiate friendships, family, and first love. Although Irene's social class sets her apart from many readers, her concerns are universal, and she comes across as relatable and accessible. Readers will likely find themselves on her side as she comes of age in this earnest novel. Reviewer: Laura Hermann
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—Irene's life is turned upside down when her father loses his high-paying New York City job. Her mother's desire to keep up appearances at times confuses Irene as she tries to understand just how bad the situation is. Eventually, their Upper West Side lifestyle is just too expensive to maintain, so the family leaves the city for Irene's grandfather's farm in upstate New York. Out in the country, Irene begins to thrive, making friends and building a strong relationship with her grandfather—the only adult she feels truly listens to her. While the issues in this book are relevant and reflective of true teen experiences, its audience is hard to pin down. Irene is 13, yet her developing relationship with Jim, the boy next door, and the inclusion of a few expletives might not be suitable for some younger readers. The overly dramatic attitude Irene displays while trying to wrestle with all the changes in her life might seem too juvenile to some readers. In areas where many children are experiencing a similar downsizing in their family's lifestyle, this book could find its niche with readers who can identify with the protagonist.—Amy Commers, South St. Paul Public Library, MN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761373032
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/2011
  • Pages: 209
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 780L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Corinne Demas is the award-winning author of numerous books for adults and young readers, including two short story collections, a memoir, a collection of poetry, and three novels, most recently, The Writing Circle. She is a Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. She grew up in New York City and now lives with her family in Western Massachusetts and spends the summer on Cape Cod. Her website is www.corinnedemas.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 2, 2011

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    EVERYTHING I WAS is Everything You Should Read

    EVERYTHING I WAS by Corinne Demas has me perplexed.The book is publicized as a book for middle grade or young adults and yet THIS blogging grandmother was captivated from the beginning pages.EVERYTHING I WAS is an engrossing book centered around the main character,Irene, who's an appealing and sincere 13 year-old girl.Drawn from our current unpredictable economic times,Irene feels an unsettling loss of control over everything in her life as her father's company downsized and he has suddenly lost his job!This result is a major life change for Irene and her family as they are forced to sell their penthouse in the city and move to live with Irene's grandfather in the country.No more posh prep school for Irene or fancy summer vacation.With the summer break starting,it's the one saving grace for Irene as she doesn't have to admit to her friends what has happened as everyone scatters for their vacations;everyone except Irene who is off to the country to help Grandpa with his farm.With so much loss,her parents are forced to sell their belongings and only a few of Irene's prized possessions are put in storage in hopes things will change soon as her father looks for a new job.However,Irene's mother is the one who takes this the hardest.She is a superficial person whose excessiveness has only added to their woes.Her attitude to living with her father-in-law in the country's almost laughable if it wasn't so selfishly sad.While Irene's father spends time looking for work but also enjoying working with his hands as he helps his dad around the farm,her mom spends time in the city looking for an affordable apartment for them to get in by the time the school term begins after summer break.Irene,meanwhile,is supported by her grandfather and as good things oft can happen in this kind of situation,she draws closer to him.She enjoys working with him and his flowers and plants as well as getting to know each other better.Some of the loveliest writing for me is when Corinne describes their work with the flowers.I could smell and feel the dirt that they were working with and celebrated their pride in the end results.Thinking this is enough to help her get through the summer,the sometimes reticent Irene is surprised when she finds the Fox family of stair-step aged children,who turn out to be good friends.Irene even finds the older brother to be special as he becomes her first love interest.Who knew?Instead of merely existing,Irene finds herself thriving in this environment and as time passes,she realizes she hopes they don't go back to the city.Irene is a likable character,and it's easy to believe her story as she grows into a more self-sufficient young lady who finds that her major stumbling block now is her mother.She wants to get Irene back to her expensive prep school even if it means by scholarship but Irene doesn't want to lie to her friends in the city because frankly,Irene wants to stay in the country and go to the public school.How can Irene do this when her parents think they've found a temporary home in the city and are ready to move back at the end of the summer?What about Irene's new found friends and her grandfather?Feeling that her father sides with her mother and that means"who cares about Grandpa OR Irene?",what can Irene do?It's the final part of EVERYTHING I WAS that's the one thing I didn't care for because I didn't want the book to end.I wanted to read more about what happened to Irene! My hope is that Corinne Demas has a sequel planned.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

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    Reviewed by Jagvlr for TeensReadToo

    Irene is thrust into reality when her father loses his high-paying city job. The family has to sell their posh penthouse apartment, and temporarily move to the country with Irene's paternal grandfather. Irene doesn't know what to tell her friends, so she says nothing as the family packs and quietly slips out of the city at the end of the school year. Irene finds herself settling in at her grandfather's. She always enjoys visiting him and helping him in his greenhouse. But Irene can hear her parents fighting. Her mother hates being in the country, and travels back to the city trying to locate an acceptable new place to live. Irene's mother does not plan on staying long-term in the country. Irene does what she can to make the best of her situation. Her grandfather gives her a beat-up bike that she uses to explore the surrounding area. It is while she is on one of her excursions that she encounters a group of kids having a grand time in their front yard. When she stops to tie her shoe, a ball comes her way. With a simple question, "Hey, do you play soccer?", life in the small town becomes brighter for Irene. She meets the oldest brother, Jim, and his quiet sister, Meg. Irene and Meg share similar interests, and Irene soon starts hanging out with Jim, Meg, and their younger siblings. It isn't until Irene's mom announces she's found a townhouse for them to live in for the year that Irene must fight for what she wants for herself. Throughout everything that has happened in the last few months, she never once had a say in what she wanted to do. With her grandfather's help, Irene learns to stand up for herself and what she wants. EVERYTHING I WAS may be a short novel, but it's a powerful one. Irene struggles through changes at a time when being a kid is hard enough. The chapters are short, but each one conveys its point nicely. This is the first novel I've read by Ms. Demas. The cover jumped out at me first, but that being said, I have to say that the cover didn't seem to fit the story once I had finished it. But don't let that prevent you from reading EVERYTHING I WAS. The story was worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A charming little gem

    everything I was is a charming read with a refreshing main character who has a solid head on her shoulders. It shouldn't surprise me, but when I think about anything NYC-related, I picture Gossip Girl and materialistic dreams and hopes. Stereotypes, I know, and Irene's mom fit into that mold! Irene took the lifestyle changes in stride, and it was great to watch her realize that she must speak up if she wants to be heard, especially when her future seems to be out-of-control.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2011

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    An amazing story of a young teen who has to start over

    Irene was hearing little whispers, but when she heard little lies she started to listen more closely. Her father, Leland, became increasingly uptight and when he wanted to cancel their annual vacation she knew there was something wrong. They went anyway, but when Bryce-Morehouse, a company where her father was vice-president, was considering a merger any fool could see a layoff coming. Irene's mother told her that Daddy wouldn't lose his job and that everything would be just fine. Wrong. Her mother, Andie, was dead wrong about everything and Irene thought to herself that "It was her lies that frightened me the most." Treasured artwork was disappearing from the walls, her mother cut out her health club membership, and her father was even cleaning. What next? They were going to move from Manhattan and leave everything behind for some podunk town to live with her grandfather, Arthur. That's what was next. Irene's best friends Eve and Frankie thought it sucked that she had to move and she simply "wanted to be invisible." Her mother was all about keeping up with appearances, but her father finally admitted they were "flat-out broke." Andie had "always been an expert at confusing luxuries for necessities," but when the Jaguar was sold and she ended up in a place she detested it struck home. Irene's grandfather sensed she would be lost and fixed her up an old bicycle, a cozy nook in the barn, and encouraged her to get out and check out the neighborhood. She was tentative, but when she saw some kids she thought that maybe the move wouldn't be so bad after all. There were five kids in one house . Jim, Meg, Stover, Lolly, and Theo. Fourteen-year-old Meg was only a year older than Irene and they almost immediately became close friends because they "had recently been separated from [their] best friends." It was the type of family and house that would have made her mother wince, but there was something special there. Jim was so incredibly friendly and handsome. "Good day, Irene." Maybe he liked her, but she didn't want to admit she kind of liked him. She loved digging her hands into the dirt in her grandfather's "plant nursery," but she started to think, "It was as if I was a different person as soon as I got off my bike and entered Meg's house." Was she falling in love with a totally new way of life? Did money and status really matter? But more importantly, was she falling in love with Jim? Was he falling in love with her? Many people, both young and old, have to start over again when jobs are lost, something that is more common that we'd like these days. Irene, like many young people, had no say or choice in the matter and began to question her very existence prior to the layoff. The tale is very well written and when Irene wonders, "But how had that happened? Was everything we had not really ours? And the life that we'd led, was none of it real?" it's precisely how many are feeling during our economic upheaval. This is a coming-of-age story, but as I read I felt that it was a reflection of our times and more importantly delineated the importance of how our young are being tossed to the winds as well. It's a powerful story of life, love, and resilience you really might want to add to your list! Quill says: This is an amazing story of a young teen who has to start over again when her life is upended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A family in crisis; a teen protagonist who¿s real, normal, hon



    A family in crisis; a teen protagonist who’s real, normal, honest and interesting; a real-world drama with genuine characters, powerful emotions, and the sweet touch of hope—what more could a reader ask for? Privileged Irene moves out of town to stay at her grandfather’s farm while Dad tries to find a job and Mom tries to hold onto her way of life. But what about Irene’s way of life? Will she end up as a scholarship girl, a fish out of water amongst her friends? Or will she carve a new life for herself as she slowly learns to make new friends and trust new strangers?

    It’s easy to lay blame when crisis strikes a family, but events overtake Irene’s anger, and soon blame becomes irrelevant. You live the life you’ve been given, she learns, and the life she’s found has plenty to offer her. Soon the question’s not what will life throw at her next, but where will she make her stand.

    Beautiful descriptions bring the scenery of Yellowstone and New York to life. Convincing dialog backs up all the characters and their many relationships. Young love and old love bloom. Suspicions aren’t fact. And communication is as difficult for adults as for teens.

    Everything I Was follows Irene as she learns the new things she can be, and leads teen readers to recognize their complex lives aren’t really out of control, even when they fall apart. An honestly enjoyable, uplifting, fascinating tale of real-world people and real-world hope, this one's highly recommended.



    Disclosure: The library was selling off some books and I liked the blurb on this one. I’m glad I bought it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Hate it

    Bad languge

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Book Review: Everything I Was

    This wasn't what I was expecting. The cover and description are misleading. I was thinking an older lead character with the typical teenager drama. Instead, I got a 13 year-old girl on the brink of that drama.

    I instantly liked Irene. For most of the book she's feels older than her age. She's got her typical young teenage behavior. She's worried about leaving her friends and the stigma she's afraid will come with people finding out they have no money. She's nervous about spending a summer in the middle of nowhere instead of glamorous New York City. She's basically had her life turned upside down with little forewarning. Her dad seems a bit of a pushover, giving in to her mother's every whim. But ties very hard to keep the family together and goes the extra mile to put there life on track. I disliked her mother the most in the story. She's seems like such a snob. Even in the end, I felt like she didn't care for anything but the families image. I was willing to bet she made Irene's father take that apartment!

    Throughout the summer Irene realizes that friendship comes in different forms and having money doesn't matter to everyone. She realizes the mistake her parents made along the way. She does act irrationally at times, but nothing that felt out of character both for her and a typical teenager. I think she found a place that felt more comfortable than a stuffy apartment and private school in the city. A place were she could be who she truly was without judgement.

    In the end, I liked the book quite a bit. It was just a little bit younger than what I normally read. I think younger teens will really like it, especially those who have to move, etc during an already hard enough period in their lives.

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  • Posted November 2, 2010

    Love it!

    This book depicts a young teenage girl who had to leave everything she owns - luxurious penthouse in the city, lavishly adorned bedroom, private prep school and her best-friends when her daddy was out of job. Nonetheless, moving into the countryside with her grandfather & discovering new friends lifted her already dampen soul.

    From the book cover, I thought Irene was in her mid teens, but in fact, she was only thirteen. I find that the book cover has no connection with the story line. Perhaps a cover of a countryside view or something more catchy.

    ???I like the way the author illustrated the story line and how she described every bit of details. I was 'dragged' into Irene's world and could imagine myself as Irene - her feelings, thoughts and actions. Everything I Was is all about hope and courage. Just love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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