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We Used to be Friends by Amy Spalding - Review

Friday, December 20, 2019

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you very much to Abrams Books for their permission for me to read this. You probably remember I read The Summer of Jordan Perez last summer and loved it, so I was really excited to read something else by Amy. She had an essay in The (Other) F Word, too.

What's it about? It's about the breakdown of a friendship between two girls who have been best friends since kindergarten. James and Kat are very different people, but have always been best friends, until senior year of high school when things start to fall apart between them for a number of reasons. 

The story is told in a dual narrative from both girls' points of view. James' point of view goes backwards in time, from the summer after graduation back to the previous September. In the summer, she is living with her dad as her mum has moved out and is seeing someone else. She hasn't told Kat that her parents are divorcing. Kat finds out at graduation. James had had this boyfriend called Logan who went to UCLA the previous year and although they had planned to go long distance, James broke up with him and Kat doesn't know exactly know why that's happened either. James has also decided to go to a different college than the out-of-state one she had said, which, it becomes clear, is partly due to money, which is something that Kat doesn't really have to worry about. James is a runner and has made new friends who also do track and field with her.

Meanwhile, Kat's point of view chapters are told forwards, from the beginning of senior year until the summer. At the beginning, she has a boyfriend, Matty, only she discovers he has cheated on her so the two of them break up. Kat makes a new friend, Quinn, and then the two of them start going out together, as Kat realises she is bisexual. She really wants to go to the same college as Quinn and it becomes a bit of an obsession, as does becoming prom queen. Her mother died a couple of years ago and her dad has started seeing someone and Kat at first finds that hard to deal with. 

I liked both girls. I thought James was a bit straightlaced and uptight at times, and maybe needed to just worry a bit less. I found Kat quite overwhelming and annoying, but also think I'm quite like Kat so I understood where she was coming from. I thought the dual narrative worked for the most part, but there were a couple of places where it confused me, and where, by the end, I couldn't remember what had happened at the beginning that the other one was just now finding out about. That was the downside of it for me, but it is an interesting way to tell a story. 

I also thought Quinn was a bit one dimensional. Even when she's trying to tell Kat that she isn't perfect and Kat is making her out to be (which was very much true!) it just didn't ring quite right for me. 

Kat doesn't seem to understand a lot of times that James wants the two of them to hang out together without Quinn, and this would have absolutely driven me mad, too. But neither of them really uses their words. I had a friendship break up when I was around the same age, and it was horrible, so I really understand the book from that point of view. I also thought that the stuff about Kat's grief after her mother has died and now that her dad is seeing someone else is extremely well written and believable. 

What age range is it for? Fourteen and above

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, Kat, obviously. I thought this was actually told in a really nice way, and even though Kat hasn't really thought about sexuality before, she's obviously within her rights to be kissed by Quinn and then think, "Oh, this is actually really nice, maybe I'm bisexual". If she was straight except for Quinn, that would totally be okay too! Sexuality is fluid! More or less, I think everyone in the book understood this, even though James finds it a bit difficult to cope with. 

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, there's quite a lot. It isn't graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No I don't think so. There's some drinking but no one is drunk. 

Is there any talk of death? A little bit about Kat's mum's death, it is a little graphic I guess. 

Are there swear words? Yeah a few. 

What criticisms do I have? I think I addressed them above. The forwards and backwards time stuff doesn't quite work for me. I had a couple of continuity issues, but they may have been worked out in the final edits of the book, so I'm not too worried about them. I think the worst bit was that Quinn just isn't a very developed character for me. James' ex, Logan, is better drawn - I liked him! I thought her reasons for breaking up with him were stupid!

Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you're a fan. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was just really excited to! 

What do I think of the cover? I think this one isn't too eyecatching, but I've seen a couple around. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of The Summer of Jordi Perez, although personally I think that is a better book. 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

We Used to be Friends will be published on 7th January 2020. I was given a free electronic copy of the novel but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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