February 26, 2024

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Book Reviews, And Author Interviews

3.5 Star Review All We Could Have Been By T.E. Carter – Out 4/23

T.E. Carter’s All We Could Have Been hits the mark on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by focusing the main character, Alexia’s, struggle to get past her brother’s crimes. There aren’t many details given about his crime because that isn’t the point of the story. If you are going to get hung up on the crime her brother committed, the victims and their trauma, then this book is not for you. It is not a thriller or a mystery. It is a family trauma about picking up the pieces and attempting to put a shattered life back together after a horrific incident by one person you love, tears it apart.

Thank you to Macmillan/Feiwel&Friends and NetGalley for an Arc in terms for an honest review.

Alexia and her parents decide that after what has happened, it is in everyone’s best interest to leave town. Her parents opt to sell their house and move into a condo and Alexia moves in with family members. Everything is steady as she goes until someone finds out the family secret and they begin bullying Alexia.
When it all became too much the family decided to take it everything to a whole new extreme. They didn’t just move Alexia but gave her a new identity. This works for a while. Alexia starts to make friends, first a couple of boys Marcus and Ryan (cue white knights to the rescue trope) and Chloe who is none too happy that Alexia is making eyes with the boys she considers her territory, especially when Ryan introduces Alexia to the drama club.
However, Chloe need not worry as Alexia decides it is bad boy Marcus she is actually interested in as she settles into what is starting to feel like her first normal school year since her brother’s craven act when she was a mere twelve-years-old.
However, moving, even with a new name can’t keep a secret if you are going to decide to tell the secret yourself. And that, surprisingly is exactly what Alexia decides to do. I really am not sure what to do with this part of the book. Some are going to call it brave and some are going to call it sabotage. Finish your senior year. Go to college. Then really start afresh. You wanted your senior year. You have your senior year. Why take this chance?  But she does. And guess what?
Yep. Everyone turns on her.
I have issues with this on many levels. One, it is obvious. This could have played out different. Even if SOME of them turned on her, fine. They are teenagers. Teenagers are gonna do what they are gonna do. But could SOME of them not turn on her? Two some of their reasons for turning on her make absolutely no sense.
Ryan decides to guilt Alexia into believing that outing her secret will somehow enlighten everyone that he is asexual and come after him. At this point in the book I seriously needed an etch-a-sketch. Because I had no ability to connect the dots between Ryan’s sexuality coming out before he wanted it to due to Alexia telling her own truth. And then him using that to guilt her into believing it as well. Some best-friend right there.
The whole school ganging up on Alexia doesn’t shock me. I’ve been there. I venture to say many kids in school have been there. Mind you not for such severe reasons but unfortunately, administration and teacher mostly turn a blind eye to bullying. They see it as a teenage right of passage. SHOULD THEY? NO, OF COURSE NOT. But unfortunately, that is normally what they do. So, it didn’t shock me in the least that when all the newspaper articles etc.… started showing up at school? No one stopped it.
Who does Alexia turn to, to get her through all this, this mess that she started by outing her past after finally getting exactly what she wanted? Not herself, unfortunately. It would have been fantastic if she’d dug in herself and told Ryan to back off. That his sexuality and whether he told HIS truth was not on her telling HER truth was not her burden to bare. The two were in no way connected.
And it would have been fantastic if she just ignored the newspaper articles and bullies and just owned up to it all, went through her grief counseling and realized that if and when she decides to tell her truth again? She knows exactly who she is talking to, the type of people they are and most importantly? She better be sure she is ready to handle whatever the fall out might be. She needs to be strong enough in herself to handle it if the stand by her, run away or slap her in the face.
Does she do any of that? No. She grabs on to Marcus like a life raft and rides him to the shore because that is what all girls need. They all need a strong man to get them through the tough times. They can’t do it themselves. They can’t stand on their own two feet. Marcus could have been her one friend to stand beside her and say hey, I got you. I got your back. You need to lean on me? Cry on my shoulder? I’m here. Everyone needs that support. No one is an island. But she can have that and still learn to find the strength to stand on her own and get through the storm by herself, too.

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