Thank you to Abrams Books for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Two best friends grow up—and grow apart—in this innovative contemporary YA novel
Told in dual timelines—half of the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backward—We Used to Be Friends explores the most traumatic breakup of all: that of childhood besties. At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. Funny, honest, and full of heart, We Used to Be Friends tells of the pains of growing up and growing apart.
When researching for my LGBTQ+ books releases in 2020 series, this one caught my eye. As well as featuring a bisexual main character and a f/f romance, it also focuses on the end of friendships and how they can be as heartbreaking as romantic break-ups. The story switches POVs between both Kat and James as well as jumping timelines. This is the thing I struggled most with in the story as sometimes the jumps could be very confusing and the story didn’t flow as well as I hoped because of it. However, that was my only problem with the book.
As always with books featuring more than one character’s POVs, I connected a lot more with Kat’s character. It was interesting to read about her blossoming relationship with girlfriend, Quinn as well as dealing with her grief after losing her mother. I loved her relationship with her dad, especially when Kat comes out. In terms of her sexuality, it is explored throughout the novel and there are plenty of conversations around the label she chooses for herself. James is also struggling with her family life after her parents separate and she is left resenting both her mother and her new boyfriend. Again, James also has a good relationship with her dad which was lovely to read.
There are quite a few side characters but not much information is provided about them outside of their involvement with either Kat or James – but they also provide the addition of how friendship breakups can affect the whole friendship group. The story also focuses a lot on the worries teenagers experience over what to do after school and colleges/futures feature a lot. I think this book nails being a teenager perfectly – with all the worries and drama that can come with it.
Overall, I really love that we have a diverse YA novel that also focuses on a friendship breakup as it isn’t an angle we see a lot of. It was frustrating as a reader seeing how both James and Kat were falling apart and knowing it was inevitable but it’s also real life and a heartbreaking time that a lot of people have gone through. If it wasn’t for the sometimes confusing timeline switches, then this book would have been perfect for me. However, I will say that it may just be a me thing so I’d definitely not let that put you off.
Lots of Love,