Everything I Was

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 - Grade 10
  • Reading Level: Grade 5

“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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Interest Level Grade 6 - Grade 10
Reading Level Grade 5
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Lab ®
Language English
Publication Date 2014-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 4.7
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV039090, JUV039140, JUV013030
Dewey [Fic]
Lexile 780
ATOS Reading Level 4.8
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 141844
Accelerated Reader® Points 7.0
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, and Reviewed

Author: Corinne Demas

Corinne Demas is the award-winning author of numerous books for children and adults, including two short story collections, three novels, a memoir, and a collection of poetry. Her picture books include Always in Trouble, Saying Goodbye to Lulu, and The Littlest Matryoshka (written under the name Corinne Demas Bliss). Her new novel, The Writing Circle, was published this past summer. She is a Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a Fiction Editor of The Massachusetts Review. She lives with her family, her dog, and two miniature donkeys in Western Massachusetts and spends the summer on Cape Cod.


  • Massachusetts Book Awards Must Read YA List, Winner, 2012
  • SSLI Book Award Honor Book, Commended, 2011


The Horn Book Guide

“Demas sensitively describes the joys and anxieties of Irene’s summer surrounded by friends and family.” —The Horn Book Guide

The ALAN Review

“In Everything I Was, Demas presents a likable 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.” —The ALAN Review


“Irene’s struggle to find what she truly wants will inspire other struggling teens to do the same. The novel is a smooth read, which captivates the audience, making the reader want to read the entire book in one setting…. This novel is for teens who want their voices to be heard. Any person interested in the dynamic make-up of family and friends will want to read this book.” —VOYA

School Library Journal

“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.” —School Library Journal


“Demas anchors this quiet, hopeful book in today’s headlines of job loss and the surprisingly vital safety nets that support families…. Never saccharine, this satisfying offering, with its solid storytelling and memorable characters of all ages, should please fans of Cynthia Rylant and Richard Peck.” —Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“Quietly soothing and pleasantly entertaining.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly

“Having written for picture book, middle-grade, and adult audiences, Demas’s first book for teens presents an authentic…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.” —Publishers Weekly

Patricia MacLachlan

“This is a lovely story about a strong, courageous young woman and a wise grandfather—kindred souls who, together, forge new lives.” —Patricia MacLachlan, Newbery-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall

Ann Turner

Everything I Was—which answers the question what and where is home—has everything I’d ever want in a novel: engaging characters; a storyline with a surprising amount of tension; a family life that sometimes fits like an outgrown shirt for the heroine, Irene; and a wonderful ending that sits just right.” —Ann Turner, author of Father of Lies

Ellen Wittlinger

“What appears to Irene to be a calamity is merely the beginning of a journey she didn’t know she wanted to take. A compassionate and convincing book.” —Ellen Wittlinger

Jane Yolen

“Demas writes beautifully of a family in crisis, a teen who takes charge of her own life, first love and last love, and the way a closeness with the natural world forces growth the way a gardener forces early bulbs. I could not stop reading.” —Jane Yolen, author of The Devil’s Arithmetic, Sword of the Rightful King, and Girl in a Cage