Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“She’s got it all. Now it’s time for her to share.”
I knew this was my kind of book as soon as I started reading, and it’s absolutely one of my top reads of the year! All You Ever Wanted is a dark domestic drama that ticks every single box, with an ending that’ll have you thinking for months. I’m so happy to be sharing my review for Susan Elliot Wright’s latest – such a thrilling novel!
About the book
You are inside.
With your husband and baby. Your life warm and calm and untroubled.
I am outside.
Alone. Looking in. Watching you.
You have all I ever wanted.
Now it’s time for you to share.
My God, the prologue in this book left me breathless. You know when you read something so good that you literally forget to breathe? After those few pages, I closed the book there and then for about 5 minutes to process it all and to ponder just how these events would link to the main story. It was absolutely the best prologue I’ve read in a long while! I temporarily forgot about everything that was running through my head (work, Christmas shopping, the fact I needed to put dinner in the oven) because of how absorbing and wonderfully described everything was. If you read something this excellent so early on, you just know the rest of the book will be a phenomenal read. We’re introduced to Emily who is 5 foot 3 (my name is Emily and I’m also 5 foot 3, weird) and her husband, Simon. Their cat, Oscar, has been missing for days and Emily is getting increasingly worried about his whereabouts. She’s also got that feeling that they’re being watched. Instantly, the thrill was there and I was completely hooked.
Subtle, yet clever details let us know that Emily was one of the characters involved in an accident in the book’s prologue, and it was nice to let my brain piece things together, things that we aren’t told outright. It’s also clear just how busy and pretty hectic Emily’s life is right now as she balances work and family life with her one-year-old daughter. Each page helps us get to know this character so well, and even a couple of chapters in, I couldn’t stop reading! I loved getting to know more about Emily and Simon’s relationship and the circumstances in which they first got together. I wondered how important these small details would be later on in the book. Things start to get really interesting when Emily gets a call from a woman named Anna, who claims she’s found Emily’s missing cat. She seems to be the nicest woman in the world, and instantly, the pair become friends. I couldn’t help but want to know more about Anna – was she too good to be true?
“Just hang up,” Simon mouths at me. I shake my head and continue listening, certain that I can hear the person on the other end, standing there and listening back.
I really felt for Emily as we learn about her friend situation; ever since she had her daughter, Bonnie, her friends seem to have disappeared, which is why Anna’s presence was a welcome surprise. As the pair agree to meet for a coffee, there are a couple of things on Emily’s mind. That regular phone call from an unknown caller with no one on the other end. Her husband speaking in hushed tones on a phone call of his own making Emily curious about what he’s hiding from her. The author consistently kept my attention on the book, the questions starting to pile up in my mind. It was already so gripping; every event, no matter how small, had me hanging onto the author’s every word. I was so invested in Emily’s life, and even though herself and Simon had built an impressive life together with a nice house and beautiful daughter, it seems there’s still a few things Emily would change, and she’s not at her happiest right now. Was Simon still happy?
A big thing that stood out for me throughout the start of this book was just how perfectly crafted the many relationships are between different characters, and especially the relationship Emily has with herself. From her husband, to her new friend, to her husband’s ex partner, Emily has a lot to balance, and as we regularly enter her thoughts and feelings, it’s clear she isn’t kind to herself about a lot of things in her life. It was truly excellent to see just how well Emily’s character worked and I was really excited to see how things changed for her throughout the book. Would her paranoia escalate if she continued to get anonymous phone calls and that awful feeling she was being watched? Could she let those thoughts of her husband and his ex go? There was so much to explore in this book, the chapter endings always forcing me to read another chapter, and then another. I just couldn’t fault any of it and I was ready for whatever the rest of the book threw my way!
As much as I liked Anna at the start and no matter how much I thought she was good company for Emily, she slowly began to get on my nerves and had me thinking twice. She’s desperate to look after Bonnie. She always finds a way to talk Emily around to her way of thinking or to spend more time with her. She even miraculously ‘found’ Emily’s phone after she’d lost it. Things were getting a little suspicious – and I bloody loved it! Until reading this, I didn’t realise how much I needed to read about a character like this; a bit obsessive, a bit strange. I knew things would escalate and even though I wanted to protect Emily and her family at all costs, I also secretly couldn’t wait for what came next in their friendship. Would Emily eventually feel that something wasn’t quite right or would she be blind to it all? I felt really excited about the possibilities! Things continued to be so thrilling and exciting, and I loved this consistency.
Emily does the one thing that could potentially cause trouble if my suspicions about Anna were correct; tells her all about how she and Simon got together, about the issues it caused and how Emily still feels about it all. It also appears that Anna seems to know information that Emily doesn’t recall telling her… I loved the mystery, the creepiness behind this, even though Emily shrugs it off as forgetfulness. It was so gripping, so compelling that I just couldn’t take a reading break. There are so many things that made me doubt Anna and how trustworthy she was, my stomach turning at the small details that make everything feel scarily real. There was something so out of place, something that, if not dealt with, could well and truly destroy Emily’s life. I love being totally absorbed in a book, and so far, this story wasn’t letting me down in the slightest!
“You think you can just drop me when an old friend comes along, then pick me back up again when you feel like it. Well, I don’t like being taken for granted. It hurts. That’s why I wanted to hurt you.”
There was a very emotional scene as time went on, the kind that leaves you with a lump in your throat and that general feeling of sadness. My suspicious thoughts about Anna just multiplied. Could she really be capable of something so cruel? Part of me was questioning whether or not Anna was behind all this, or if there was something else at play here. I loved that feeling of not knowing, that my predictions could be completely off. To round off part one of the book, Emily discovers something really unnerving and unexpected… and before I could think about this further, part two of the book began, which alternated between Emily and Anna’s perspective – it had me super excited for what was to come! Starting this part of the book from Anna’s point of view was very interesting indeed, and I was already thinking about so much. I loved getting to know more about her past, and I was finally able to make that vital connection between Emily and Anna.
It was an absolute emotional roller-coaster for Emily (and myself!) as she comes to terms with the truth and what this all means. It felt tense, but in a way there was relief mixed in with it all too. I loved how we’re always kept in the loop with how both characters feel, the description consistently excellent, tugging on those heartstrings yet still making us question so much. Emily visits memories long forgotten, flashbacks from the past which help her to piece together her life, and it’s clear just how draining and shocking all this new information is for her. Recent events had me keen to look further into Emily’s past, but also what it meant for her future. I wasn’t convinced the surprises were over though, and as we revisited Anna’s perspective, I still had my doubts she’d leave things alone as she once again goes to extreme lengths to get her own way. Should Emily be worried? And why was Simon still acting strangely? I knew the ending of the book would be one to remember!
The back and forth between Emily and Anna really increased the tension as the ending got closer; just as Emily is coming to terms with things and being super accommodating to Anna, we read more about Anna behind the scenes, and I was starting to have a mini panic. What exactly did she want from Emily? What was she trying to do? Emily’s paranoia sets in again, her brain jumping to the worst conclusions. However, this time, I sided with her completely and still felt so uncertain about Anna and how she acted. There is always something for the reader to think about, the urgency building as we sense something isn’t right. I loved Emily as a character, and it was so saddening to see how Anna’s presence in her life lifted her up and brought her down in equal measure. I just wished Emily’s husband (or anyone) would see things from her point of view, to protect her and to reassure her when things got too much. Or even to understand that something isn’t quite what it seems…
I wasn’t sure my heart could take more emotion, but it somehow managed it as Emily and Simon have a crucially important chat. Did I know it was coming? Maybe I did deep down, but that didn’t really soften the blow! I couldn’t fault how the author approached any of the topics in this book; she does so with such depth, such attention to detail that it’s impossible not to feel things so strongly, impossible to not let these things stick in your mind. I found myself thinking about certain scenes as I was trying to sleep at night, thinking of the what ifs, the hows and the whys, and again, I couldn’t help but think about Emily; the continuous drama, the traumatic events that have happened so suddenly in her life so far that it’ll affect her for the rest of it. I was keen to see how Anna would use this new information to her advantage, her cunning ways and clever mind always full of surprises, always one step ahead. The suspense was off the scale!
“Simon’s shaking his head. Everyone else is looking at me, the nutcase, the paranoid wife, getting it wrong again, seeing danger and malevolence where there is only kindness and support.”
There was a more intense darkness hovering over the story in the last few chapters. Something really unsettling. As much as I was nervous about what was to come, it was an amazing feeling – the atmosphere had been perfectly written and I instantly had some terrifying predictions for what could happen to round this story off. I proceeded with caution, but I wasn’t convinced there would be a happy ending here. It frustrated me as much as Emily that she wasn’t being taken seriously when something goes terribly wrong. When she feels as though her life is crashing down around her. When she feels like she’s lost and alone. She feels as though no one would believe her. That no one would take her seriously. But if they didn’t, how on Earth would she be able to fix this and keep her family safe? I was so grateful for Emily’s mother, the only person who would listen and understand. Up until this point, their relationship hadn’t been at its best, but I was so grateful things had improved when Emily needed her the most.
By this point, I needed answers. I needed the book’s conclusion. I was pretty desperate! There was no slowing down as Emily and Simon do what they need to do to put things right, to save what is left of their family. As for Anna and her actions, I was shocked, appalled and completely taken aback by her decisions. What an intense finale! There were tears in my eyes as everything played out – so fast-paced and absolutely terrifying. I’ve never read an ending like this; so full on. So dark and disturbing. So upsetting. There’s one question that will be forever on my mind after reading the ending chapter, but I quite like the fact that we’ll never know the answer. My emotions were all over the place! I think I need about 6 months to recover from everything, and I know I’ll be thinking about this book for an awful long time. It was absolutely perfect. Crafted impeccably. Book hangover incoming!
I knew this book would be good, but I didn’t realise how much I’d love it and how much it would take over my brain space! Such a dark, compelling and emotional read. I wasn’t mentally prepared for how much I became emotionally invested in these characters and their complex lives! The plot had me constantly thinking, the feeling of knowing something wasn’t right was so satisfying and impressed me more with each passing chapter. The author has done everything right here and it’ll be hard to forget such a gripping and intense journey. If you love family drama, can’t-put-down thrillers and obsessive characters, you’ll adore this book!
All You Ever Wanted by Susan Elliot Wright is available right now on Amazon or wherever you buy your books! Make sure you’re following her over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates.
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