Mim knows what she wants, and where she wants to go — anywhere but home, stuck in the suburbs with her mother who won't get off the couch, and two brothers in prison. She's set herself rules to live by, but she's starting to break them.
Now Mim has to retrieve a lost package for her mother. Does this make her a drug runner? Why is a monster dog called Gargoyle hidden in the back shed? And Jordan, the boy she sent Valentines to for years, why is he now suddenly a creep? How come there’s a huge gap between her and her best friend, Tahnee? And who is the mysterious girl next door who moans at night?
Over the nine days before her seventeenth birthday, Mim's life turns upside down. She has problems, and she's determined to solve them herself. But in the end, she works out who her people are, and the same things look entirely different.
About the Author
Vikki Wakefield lives in Adelaide. All I Ever Wanted is her first novel.
As a teenager, I always had one leg dangling over the wrong side of the tracks. When I was seventeen I went to house-sit for a friend who was an unmarried teenage mother. It was a half-house in a lost street in a forgotten suburb – just like the book.
It wasn’t hard to dredge up memories of that month – I lived in a perpetual state of fear and desperation. I dared myself to stay there. During the day the street was deserted; at night it was alive and menacing and I was terrified. Law seemed to exist outside of that street, but by the end of the month I was braver, wiser and I’d changed my mind about some of the residents. The people who lived there didn’t have money or material things – but what they did have was pride, a sense of community and bucketloads of humanity.
Interview with the author Vikki Wakefield published by Bookseller+Publisher
Vikki Wakefield’s debut novel is a coming-of-age tale about a girl growing up in a world of 'misfits and outsiders', with a drug-dealing mother and a neighbour who's a phone-sex worker. She spoke to Kate Sunners.
Your protagonist Mim is ballsy, funny and clever, but also disillusioned, cynical, judgmental and naïve. Where did the inspiration for Mim come from?
Mim was a lot of fun to write. She has more pieces of me than I care to admit (was that an admission?) and it was easy to flesh her out once I stopped censoring myself. I gave Mim all my old flaws, the strength I never had, and the clarity I craved when I was 17. I feel like I set her free at the end of the book, but in a way she wasn’t expecting. She’ll go on to do great things because she has nothing to hold her back.
Many of Mim’s neighbours are misfits and outsiders, but many turn out to surprise her—including the intelligent phone-sex worker next door. Was the town something that sprang up around your character Mim, or was Mim a creation of the environment you made for her?
Mim and her environment evolved together. I knew I had a character who wanted to escape, but when I started writing I thought how she escaped was the ultimate destination. She would get out, by sheer guts, but then the story took off in another direction and I was drawn to explore what she’d be leaving behind. Her journey became my focus and I wanted the book to have more than one hero because I was emotionally attached to the other characters. I’m surprised that some of my readers think Mim’s life is dangerous and unusual. I’ve been told that I make her life seem ordinary, that this is the book’s strength. I believe Mim’s life is ordinary. People do live like this. And my characters aren’t larger than life at all, it’s just that maybe you haven’t met them yet.
Did you live by any self-made rules as a teenager, as Mim does? And did you break any of them?
I broke most of my parents’ rules and a good handful of society’s. Self-made rules? None, really. I was the perennial sidekick and I followed. I just wanted to fit in. I went through the anarchic stage like most and I said a lot of things I wished I didn’t.
What would I say to my younger self? Be fearless. Fear holds you back.
There’s a lovely scene in the story where Mim has an entire wordless conversation with a homeless drunk. Do you draw on real-life observations when you are writing moments like these?
Mim and the drunk. That’s one of my favourite scenes. I wanted Mim to have a meaningful exchange, to divine a truth about a person she didn’t even know and put her judgment back in its box—all without words. I hope I pulled it off. Like many writers, I’m a watcher and eavesdropper; unlike most, I don’t keep a notebook or write anything down. My ideas stay in my head until they hit the page. I find, this way, the good stuff floats to the top and the rest just drifts away. My first draft is always lean and I have to write up to a word count, not cut back. This is probably not the most productive way to work. Once, I started a ‘fearless’ 80,000 word first draft and the monkey on my back just kept shrieking, ‘Cut, cut, CUT!’ I didn’t feel like a writer as I typed ‘The End’, nor did I feel like one as I signed my publishing contract. When I became an idea thief, when I realised that I was plotting while I mashed the potatoes—that’s when I first knew I was a writer.
What made you choose to write for a YA audience?
I don’t think I had a choice. Mim started with a single page and her voice felt so right, I just ran with it. Then I wrote a few short stories mid-novel and that voice was still there, even though the characters were adults. My voice! That thing a writer is supposed to find, without a map. I love that the YA audience will let a writer evolve and since I’m just starting my writing career, that’s important to me. I love that teenagers still believe a book can change their life.
'I read this novel in one gulp, loving every moment of the narrator's voice and the strangeness of her impoverished life...Though Mim makes mistakes, and plenty of them, this novel contains none. All I Ever Wanted is a brilliant coming-of-age novel.' Five stars. * Australian Bookseller & Publisher *
'This is one of the most memorable YA books I've ever read. The voice is original, the characters are real, the language is startling and beautiful. And the plot keeps you trapped till the dangerous but hopeful end.' -- Cath Crowley
'One of the best debut novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Vikki Wakefield has gifted the Australian Publishing world, and readers of Young Adult Fiction, a superior tale, full to brimming with formidable characters and an exquisite protagonist. Her ability to sculpt full flesh and blood characters, with only words, ensures she will quickly be placed snug among the ranks of those we already know to expect much from, the likes of Cath Crowley, Melina Marchetta, Leanne Hall, Fiona Wood and Tim Pegler, for their talent to makes us love their characters.' * The Book Gryffin *
'While it's both a thriller and a gritty romance, for me All I Ever Wanted is first and foremost a sparkling journey into hope. As the story drives toward its surprising conclusion, we're left as stunned as Mim as she discovers "that there are so many ways to tell a person you love them." I loved this book.' -- Paul Griffin
`[An] absorbing young adult novel...Despite the grim setting, the characters are richly and lovingly drawn with smart-mouthed, determined Mim a particular delight. At the core of the book is the idea that things (and people) are not what they seem. It's nothing new as a concept, but it's executed with winningly original style, wit and heart. Think Underbelly meets Hating Alison Ashley.' * Big Issue *
'Vikki Wakefield's first novel walks the tightrope between fate and human agency. Despair is leavened by shards of hope; this is not Young Adult literature that peddles misery or wallows in a nihilistic fug. Mim is one of those resilient protagonists who still wields a degree of control over her life....Like her protagonist, Wakefield plays with the reader's prejudices. Little by little, the restrictive labels forced on various characters are seen to be products of convenience or carelessness, rather than truth....All I Ever Wanted is a thoughtful and impressive debut, and Wakefield a talent to watch.' * Australian Book Review *
`A beautifully-written account of one young girl trying to claw her way out of the circumstances into which she was born...It's a story about daring to dream and the transformative power of hope.' * Sunday Tasmanian *