I am having ALL. THE. FEELS.
This summer, I read Amy Spalding’s other YA novel, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) and it was really everything sapphic I needed. So imagine my excitement to see Spalding had released a new book in 2020! I was really just expecting a cute little YA story, and while it was very cute, it was also hard-hitting stuff right here! I did not expect to be so emotionally invested!
We Used to Be Friends is about James and Kat, two best friends since kindergarten. At the beginning of senior year, they are inseparable—by the time they leave for college, they are no longer friends. This story details their friendship break-up, but with a twist! Kat’s narrative tells the story going forward, while James’s narrative begins the August after graduation and works backward in time. As you read each perspective and gain insight to the timeline and each character’s motivations at those specific moments in time. This twist of time made the story especially impactful, and I found the narrative to be really compelling because of that. I wanted to know how it all fit together! I also really enjoyed that both character’s had a lot of “side plots” going on in their lives. It really encapsulated what life as a high school senior is like! I also really appreciated the presence of parents, and the strong relationships both of the main characters had with their dads.
The book alternates between James’s and Kat’s perspectives. They had clear, distinct voices and I really liked that both had full lives while simultaneously showing how important each other’s presence is. Of the two, I think Kat is more of the unlikeable character, but it’s also impossible to hate her because as a reader, you are getting her perspective and understanding why she makes the choices that she does. Despite Kat being in the sapphic relationship, I found myself relating heavily to James. She is really just trying to figure everything out when her world has been turned upside down in numerous ways, and it’s a flawed belief system, to believe in planning everything out, but one that many people (including myself) tend to hold. This book is really character-driven, and I appreciate how much depth James and Kat, as well as many of the side characters, have.
At heart, this book is really all about relationships, expectations, and adapting to those you have relationships with. About creating your own identity and becoming an individual. But also about investing into relationships with those you value most. Being set during a senior year of high school was great way to talk about all these things, because at this point in your life is where a lot of relationships shift and it becomes important to establish who you are and what your identity will look like outside of high school.
If you enjoy YA contemporary, this is a really strong book to pick up. Unlike a lot of other YA that I’ve read, this book doesn’t hinge upon one single event or goal. Instead, it’s really an exploration into narrative and time and friendship and relationship. At the core is the importance of friendship—you can have great familial relationships, a great significant other, but nothing will replace that feeling of platonic love. I enjoyed this story so much, and can’t wait to read what Amy Spalding writes next.