Blurb from Goodreads
You can’t rewrite the past, but you can always choose to start again.
It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.
Nearly a month since Cleo realised they’ll never be besties again.
Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.
Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.
I don’t know about you but I’ve never read a book about the breakup of a friendship before. Not one like this. This book cuts deep. I think we’ve probably all experienced the sharp pain of a friendship breakup at some stage in our lives but it’s almost a taboo subject! It’s just never discussed.
In my many years shuffling around this mortal coil I’ve had friendships end.
I’ve lost many friendships that simply drifted apart. Those ones don’t hurt thankfully. Life, circumstances, whatever… things just changed and friendships came to their natural conclusion.
But then there are the ones that are devastating.
I’ve lost a particular dear friendship where I still to this day don’t understand what happened and why she seemingly changed overnight. I still find myself haunted by this experience.
I’ve lost a friendship where I was the instigator of the breakup because I realised we were two very different people. I can accept this one but there’s a sadness associated with it.
And I’ve lost a friendship where the other person kept drifting away from me no matter what I did to try and stop it from happening. This one hurts. Because it made me feel worthless and disposable.
So there’s my dirty laundry aired! It’s funny. We talk about romantic relationships that breakup but never a friendship. And female friendship especially is such a close bond. Therefore to read a book that explores how that bond fractures and ultimately irreversibly breaks was actually quite cathartic for me.
”Stars are just random balls of hydrogen and helium collapsing because of gravity. Most stars are dead by the time we see them anyway. It’s almost like looking at the past,” Dom says, turning to glance at me for a second. “Not the future. You’re staring at something that doesn’t even exist anymore. And all those people making wishes? It’s like they’re making a wish on a lie.”
I lean closer to the window, looking out and up into the sky.
“They’re pretty little lies though,” I say.
The story follows Cleo whose friendship with bestie Layla comes crashing down when Layla makes new friends… it’s not quite as simple as that but that’s the way Cleo sees it. And I completely related to that feeling she had. The fear of being replaced. The helplessness of seeing your bestie slowly change before your eyes, seeing them suddenly prioritise other friendships over the bond that you thought was above all others.
This book is beautifully written. It’s heartbreaking and completely moving.
And what I really liked is that Cleo wasn’t an innocent bystander in the dissolution of this friendship. That she did things that were incredibly mean and callous… it made this book feel all the more authentic that these two girls started taking pot shots at each other. How they knew exactly how to hurt the other one…
In the background there are other storylines featuring Cleo’s family and her parents’ relationship. There’s also a side little love story for Cleo which was super cute but wasn’t hugely emphasised.
Instead where the emphasis was placed was on trust. On losing trust, on regaining trust, and on letting yourself trust someone else. On learning that just because one friendship goes south doesn’t mean they all will…
This was just an incredibly heartfelt contemporary YA. It was a little slow to get going but once it did I was completely immersed in the storyline… and those last few pages… CRIED BUCKETS!
Okay so sure… the ending is just not that realistic if we want to be all harsh and critical… but freaking heck it gives closure and if like me you read this book for some sort of catharsis then you’ll appreciate it.
Definitely recommend to anyone whose ever loved and lost a dear friendship as it will help you feel a little less alone.