We Used to Be Friends
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.
What's worse than a romantic breakup? A best-friend breakup, at least according to James, a girl with a boy's name, whose friendship with Kat seems to erode over their senior year of high school. Kat is dating someone new, and James, increasingly irritated at what she sees as Kat's constant need for attention, has stopped telling Kat about what's happening in her life, even major events like her parents' split. The two girls narrate their stories in alternating chapters, and Spalding (The Summer of Jordi Perez) has James's version move backward in time while Kat's goes forward. The author effectively conveys the ways that a desire for perfection can keep people at arm's length, how not telling people things makes it harder to tell them later, and how silence can come to feel like a lie. The novel is about more than just the friendship: Kat's seeing a girl for the first time; James is volunteering, making new friends, and debating whether to get back together with her boyfriend. But Spalding shows with sensitivity how the pain of losing a close friend can seep into everything. Ages 14 up.