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We Used to Be Friends

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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.
 

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 7, 2020

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About the author

Amy Spalding

12 books641 followers
Amy Spalding grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 696 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,399 reviews8,120 followers
January 21, 2020
5 stars because right book, right time. I went through a gradual yet intense friendship breakup over the latter half of 2019 and We Used to Be Friends got me in all of my feels, like every single one of them. Amy Spalding’s novel follows James and Kat, childhood besties about to start their senior year of high school. They both have life stuff going on: James broke up with her boyfriend and her parents are separating, Kat is dating a girl for the first time and is adjusting to her dad looking for romantic love too, and both are applying to college and waiting to hear back. What I love about this book is that unlike in most stories, James’s and Kat’s other relationships take a backseat to their friendship, which acts as the center of this story. In sections that move both forward and backward in time, we see how their friendship falls apart over the course of a year, the care they both gave and then lost.

I’m super emotional both because of my friendship breakup in late 2019 and because friendships have been both the most beautiful relationships in my life and my most devastating breakups, so I’m just gonna write this review in list form, what I loved and how it relates to my late 2019 friendship breakup. Yay for a book review that combines both a review of a book and over-disclosure of the reviewer’s personal life memoir! I so appreciate how We Used to Be Friends captures:

1) how friendship can mean so much to someone. At their friendship’s strongest, James and Kat were always there for each other, they texted each other every hour, they told each other everything and they understood one another even with just a look, a glance. There’s an energy to a close or best friendship that is so undervalued, when you find a close or best friend who you feel excited every time you talk or text with them, who you know will consistently have your back. Spalding captures this dynamic even in small phrases, like when James is texting Kat and she thinks to herself, “I realize as I see the three dots on her end how relieved I am that her impending response is almost immediate.” This dynamic reminded me of my of my friendship with the friend I broke up with during our first year of friendship a few years ago, when we would have these text conversations that flowed with energy and vibrancy and how much I enjoyed that. Even though I have another friend who I feel that way about now, I still miss and cherish the time I had with my ex-friend where we once had that same intensity of connection.

2) how the rules of friendship can be hard to figure out. Spalding shows this difficulty in a flashback scene of James meeting up with Kat and Quinn, Kat’s new girlfriend, at a diner. James thinks to herself “… it seems like Quinn is suddenly my best friend’s new best friend. Am I immature for how much dread that possibility fills me with? I know that a best friend isn’t the sort of relationship where you make explicit promises and set expectations, the way you do with a boyfriend.” I related so much to this thought process, because I experienced it too. When my ex-friend started dating her boyfriend, and even before she started dating him, she had a template to follow: find him on a dating app, date him, tell her friends about him, invite him to events with family, post about him on social media, get engaged to him, etc. Yet, for our friendship – a friendship in which I encouraged her to go to therapy for the first time, in which she supported me through my adjustment to graduate school – there was no template, no milestones to achieve. And even though we tried to set expectations, in the end they collapsed, especially in contrast to the resources our society invests in romance. Spalding shows, through James and Kat’s friendship, how friendships would benefit from more thorough communication, expectation-setting, and friendship therapy.

3) how romance is prioritized over friendship. Spalding’s portrayal of this twisted my gut so hard. She shows how, when Kat and Quinn started dating, how that shifted Kat and James’s friendship. It’s not like Kat never asked James to hang out or that she wasn’t there for James, and yet, their dynamic still shifted. I felt so grateful for how Spalding captures James’s disappointment, even the subtle things, like how Kat would want to hang out with Quinn more or obsess about Quinn more to the expense of Kat’s zest in her friendship with James. In the scene where James meets up with Kat and Quinn at the diner, she thinks to herself that “it’s like life sets up boyfriends to be the most important thing in a girl’s life.” While this thought process and the progression of Kat and Quinn’s relationship aligns with the idea of amatonormativity and the patriarchal prioritization of romance overall, I am glad that Spalding highlights how this devaluing of friendship can play out even in nuanced ways. Similar to what happened with me and my ex-friend, it’s not that she just ghosted me or only wanted to talk and hang out with her boyfriend. Yet, her prioritization of him had an effect, and I think we both lacked the language and/or the sheer tenacity to address it.

4) how sometimes things just don’t work out, and it hurts so freaking much, and you survive it. I appreciated how neither James nor Kat were abusive to one another necessarily, rather, a lot of small things built up over time and their friendship didn’t last. Kat could have been a better listener, James could have been more open with her feelings, both could have communicated in more nuanced and emotionally intelligent ways. One of the conversations they had at the end of the book – their last conversation – broke my heart, because it reminded me so much of heated conversations I got into with my ex-friend, when you’ve both been hurt and both of your hurt just spirals into something unsalvageable. And yet, Spalding shows, through the flashbacks of this story in particular, the genuine, deep love James and Kat shared with one another, that that love was real even if it did not last. All of these dynamics reminded me of my own friendship with this ex-friend. Maybe I could have been more understanding of who she was all along, maybe she could have been less defensive, maybe we both could have done things differently. And yet, at least for me, our friendship felt like, in the words of one of my current best friends Bri, a whole world – a world of connection and meaning and beauty incomparable to romantic love and its state-sanctioned popularity.

I feel like we so often do not put enough effort into our friendships and a large part of that stems from the lack of media representations of deep, fulfilling friendships. Is We Used to Be Friends one of the most well-written books I’ve read? Honestly, I’m not sure I’d say so, as the prose is relatively straightforward and the characters’ lives feel a bit contained. In some ways I feel like if not for my own experiences with friendship and friendship breakups, I’d give the novel four stars. And yet, this book does such a tender and thoughtful job of portraying a close friendship and its disintegration that I’m confident it will resonate with others who’ve been through what I and others have been through, the breakup of a close or best friendship. After all, I think the best books are the ones that help us feel less alone and more connected in our suffering and our grief. This book accomplishes that in major ways for me, because even though I write about friendship on my blog all the time, it’s so meaningful to see an experience similar to mine portrayed in fiction. Thanks to Amy Spalding for her words and I’d love more books that center friendship in the future.
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
601 reviews467 followers
January 17, 2020
I know it's only January, but I'm pretty sure We Used to be Friends will be one of my favourite reads of 2020.

This was so good, amazingly written with capability to send me on my own reminiscing journey.

Full review to come.
May 10, 2020
“The secret about falling in love is how you can do it a million times over with the same person, when the person is the right one.”

1.5 stars

Honestly, I don't give 1-star rating easily but this book was dreadful and every single part of it was a disappointment. According to the blurb, in We Used To Be Friends we follow James and Kat, two childhood best friends, during their senior year of high school. We know even before starting this book (the title says it all), that it will tell the story of their falling out of love and it really intrigued me because it’s not something often told in YA books and yet such a big part of teenager life. Personally, I had a friendship break up with my 8 years long best friend at the end of High School, so I totally could relate to that kind of stories. Needless to say, I had huge expectations before starting reading and still today, I can’t believe I literally have nothing nice to say about this book. Every inch of it felt wrong and unnecessary. I disliked this book so much that I don’t even know how to do a proper review of it, so I’ll try to list with everything that went wrong in my opinion.

The unlikable characters
James and Kat were so difficult to like. I enjoy reading about flawed and grey characters, actually, I call them my favourites, but they need to have some traits that make me want to root for them. Here, Kat and James didn’t have even one relatable positive personality trait. Kat was so selfish, and she seemed to be a good friend only when there is no love interest in her life (which did not happen a lot). I get it, when you are in a serious relationship, you have to divide your time differently, but Kat multiplies flings and ends up neglecting her friendship with James every time. It really made me feel like James was here stopgap when no one more interesting was here. Also, I hated that she called James “dork” every two sentences.
“It's like I've been your therapist. You dump all over me and then you don't even stick around to reciprocate. At least therapists get paid. I'm just doing all of it for free.”

On the other hand, James was really mean to everyone. To Kat, yes, but to her parents as well, and I got tired of her using the excuse of her parent’s divorce to justify her actions. Also, I’ve never seen anyone lying that much to their so-called best friend. I was a bit bothered by her ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude, for instance, the fact that she kept being friends with Kat’s ex when she would have hated for Kat do to the same with her ex (and then saying ‘but it’s not a fair comparison’) really annoyed me. Friendships need to be between two equals or the will not work.



The messy timeline
I usually enjoy books with dual timelines, however, the event in We Used To Be Friend didn’t follow the usual Before/Now pattern where each character was in charge of telling one side of the story. All the chapters were named after a month and a year -mostly during their senior year- that, to me, had no coherence whatsoever. If I understand correctly, James’ chapters were telling the story backwards starting after graduation, whereas Kat’s chapters were in chronological order starting from the beginning of the year. Honestly, it didn’t make sense for me and I had to stop several times to remember when was the action taking place. It made the story really difficult to understand fully as I couldn’t precisely picture (or even blurrily) the timeline of events that lead to the decline of their friendship.
“When you don’t know the right thing to say, maybe it’s time to listen instead.”

The lack of friendship
The timeline could have been clearer if we actually saw when James and Kat were actually friends VS when they weren’t anymore. However none of the chapters actually shown their friendship. I think the author tried to show too many intermediate parts and forgot to focus on the reasons of their actual friendship existed because even those happening at the beginning of the school year, before anything really happened to explain the dissolution of their friendship, there is no sign of their love for one another. They were mean, annoyed, irked at one another, but I never witnessed the genuine love that could have made this story believable. I don’t care if best friends have nothing in common or if best friends are super similar, but in this friendship, Kat was a full-on attention seeker, and everything about her life was drama. She even said things she didn’t mean just to be reassured, I really hated it. I found the perfect quote that said “Kat’s a little self-centred. I worry there’s no room for you in your friendship”, so accurate. But also, James seemed so detached with anything related to Kat and she didn't even try to answer more than two words after Kat’s monologues, so like, really, it’s kind of fortunate that Kat speaks enough for the both of them. It’s even more frustrating when you realize that ALL their problems would have been resolved with simple honest communication.



The LGBT Relationship
Even though it was one of the main reasons I picked this book, I was really bothered by the bisexual representation in this book. It didn’t feel realistic to me – but I’ve read reviews that said otherwise, so it’s probably just me that don’t identify with it, and keep in mind that my review reflects my own opinions and you are allowed to disagree with me. Other than the fact that Kat realizing that she was bisexual felt unrealistic, the relationship itself made me feel nothing. There was no chemistry between Kate and Quinn, and that was a shame, but Kat was her usual toxic self. Never acknowledging and listening to Quinn’s insecurities, like Quinn couldn’t complain because compared to her, she was perfect. Even that word, ‘perfect’, show how realistic this book was. When you love someone, you love every part of them, even their flaws. You see them but you love them still.
“It was really scary for me and you refused to see it. You couldn't see that I'm a person standing here, not some perfect girlfriend you conjured up.”

Nothing happened
Outside of the drama, NOTHING HAPPENED in this book. It was SO repetitive. We get it, Kat is a selfish and bad friend, James is a withdrawn and bad friend, can something actually happen now? Because the drama is not carrying the plot. The ending was in line with the book; unsurprising and unsatisfying. Also, I want to throw out there one last complain, WHAT IS UP WITH CONTEMPORARY TITLES THAT ARE ALSO TITLE OF SONGS? That song kept playing in my head.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (semi hiatus).
1,458 reviews182 followers
December 18, 2020
3.5 Stars
After having spent an embarrassingly long time being totally confused by this story I re-read the blurb and realised I somehow missed the very significant detail that this story is told in two different timelines going in different directions. I hadn't paid attention to the dates at the beginning at each chapter either. Yay me and my astute observation skills. I had to start again with fresh eyes and now I am sad. I am sure everyone who has been through a friendship break up knows it can be like losing a part of your identity, especially if you are 'do everything together friends'. You are left to establish a new version of yourself without your bestie and there can be quite an adjustment period. We are not talking about the slowly drifting apart breakups by the way. We are talking about the increasing 'tension and division, lost and bewildered, then shouting and ugly snot crying argument' breakups that leave your immediate future in disarray because you had quite a few things you were meant to be doing together in the near future. I thought the timeline and reverse timeline format was genius because

Now I will say that I found Kat to be an incredibly self-centred and entitled person and she may be the cause of some DNFing. However, I encourage Readers to push through because she does have a journey of self discovery that may ease your dislike of her somewhat.

A cleverly told story that actually left me feeling emotional and in need of a long phone call with my bestie.
Profile Image for L. | That_Bookdragon.
252 reviews12 followers
January 7, 2020
3/5 ⭐️

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest opinion and happy release day to this book!

"It's strange to think you could grow up right alongside someone and be one category of person when it turns out they're another entirely."


We Used To Be Friends follows two best friends as they grow up and ultimately... grow apart. Told through different points of view, one moving forward and the other moving backward, the reader gets to know how and why Kat and James' friendship evolved through times. Although the format was promising and interesting, I sadly found myself to be quite confused at times with each timeline. However, this dual timeline brought an interesting aspect to the book as it helped understand better both sides of what Kat and James were feeling toward each other.

Even though I was not fond of Kat's character for reasons that are still unknown to me, I grew extremely attached to James. I found that there was much more dimension to James than her friend and she was much more complex in her ideas. I really liked James because, not going to lie here, I could really relate to how she felt towards other characters in the story. Kat on the other hand seemed to be a little bit oblivious and I wanted to shake some sense into her. Maybe it's because I loved James and wanted to protect her that I didn't really like Kat. I do have to say however that Kat is bisexual so A+ for diversity. Sliding into this, I liked the way her bisexuality was portrayed because I didn't seem forced and the author made it seem really natural and genuine. Moreover, I liked that Kat was not ashamed at all about her sexuality and she was not scared to make a statement in front of her whole school so, that's maybe the only redeeming quality I found within her.

This book centers itself mostly around friendship and family relationships rather than romance, which was truly appreciable in this context. It was pitched as a book about two best friends growing apart and this is exactly what it delivered. Of course there was relationsips involved in the plot but they were minor compared to the central plot of the book itself even though they played a part in making the story move forward. The parents of the protagonists also had their own flaws and qualities, making them seem more genuine and their presence really brought something to the plot as well. The family dynamics is complex, but relatable. Not everything was portreayed as easy or wonderful with the cast of characters and I enjoyed this aspect the most.

I think the majority of us has been through one or more friendship breakups and it is always sad to see but in real life and in written form, especially when it involves best friends who used to say everything to each other until they don't even want to see one another anymore. This made for a painful but realistic story. Using both humor and sadness, this book is definitely one to add to your TBRs. It has the best portrayal of complex friendship I have read in a while.

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Profile Image for Maria.
304 reviews18 followers
January 17, 2020
2/5 stars:

I think 2020 should be the year I realize YA contemporary is just not for me. There are VERY few contemporaries I end up loving and this definitely wasn't one of them. In fact, it is one of contemporaries I've enjoyed the least in recent times.

Both in writing and plot I don't think this book does anything special or remarkable.

The story moves between the two main characters' POVs -Kat and James- and although their personalities and likes/dislikes are pretty different their tones and perspectives weren't that different. I do commend the fact that the characters were at least distinguishable in their aspirations and personalities. However, throughout the book both characters feel very inconsistent and their actions sometimes don't make a lot of sense and they just come out of nowhere. I understand that they're teenagers but it didn't feel like that was what the author had been trying to do. It was more like the characters weren't explored properly and we didn't really get to see a lot of inner exploration from them.

I think the book doesn't benefit from the back and forth of the timeline. We move inconsistently between the beginning of the girls' senior year, the middle part of it and also the summer after. It makes the pace feel weird and I felt like it was more difficult to connect with the events this way.

The ending of this book was... really not good, y'all. I am never opposed to incomplete endings but this was so abrupt and unsatisfying. It wasn't even emotional or poignant in any way. I felt by the end of this book like reading it had been for absolutely nothing *shrug*

I guess the reason I'm giving this book a 2-star rating and not a 1 -star comes down to the fact that we have some decent bisexual representation (with an main f/f couple) and also the fact that this book focuses on the friendship between two girls (even if it's more about its fallout) and I love me some female/female friendships always.
Profile Image for lu ☾.
42 reviews125 followers
March 1, 2020
2.5 stars

I was really excited about this one because friend breakups is a topic that I think should be covered a lot more in YA lit (and media in general), BUT it was honestly pretty underwhelming. Maybe I'm just dumb, but the dual timelines were very confusing, and since I was listening to the audiobook it was Really Annoying to have to go back to the start of the chapter every time to check what month it was, and then try to remember what had and hadn't happened up to that point in time.

The characters didn't really do it for me either, so I ended up not feeling very attached to what was happening in general. I got their motivations, and I think it's very interesting to see both sides of the story, but even though I love a good flawed character, they honestly weren't very likable. One of the things I enjoyed the most was probably the family dynamics; they are both dealing with their own issues at home, and I always love to read about that kind of stuff. I also loved the talk about college, and plans, and all the pressure surrounding that, and how sometimes things don't go the way you expected them to go.

I think the ending might have been the worst thing about the book, though. It was super unsatisfying. You know the ones that leave you like 'Oh, that was it?' plus a lot of disappointment? Well, that was exactly it. It wasn't a terrible book at all, and I didn't hate it in any way, it just left me feeling very, very meh.
Profile Image for Jasmine Guillory.
Author 17 books20.1k followers
February 20, 2020
This was my first read of 2020 and I tore through it — I love books about friendship and I love Amy Spalding books so it’s not a surprise I loved this one! It’s such a touching, relatable story of a friendship breakup, and I really empathized with both characters while also wanting to yell at both of them while also understanding why they were doing the things that made me want to yell at them! I thought the structure might be confusing (the point of view of one character goes backward in time and the point of view of the other goes forward in time) but it wasn’t at all, and it made the discovery of why each of them did what they did really fun.
Profile Image for Rachel.
366 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2020
*I received an earc of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

It's been a few hours since I've finished this book and I really can't find strong feelings for it one way or another. I really love the premise of the story, the queer representation, the characters, the relationships, and the realistic feels of everything. Despite all of this I just wasn't really able to get into the book. I found myself accidentally skimming parts of it, the timeline was pretty confusing because I kept forgetting what month it was, and parts of the book just felt so drawn out with too little happening.

I wanted to love this book but I just don't. I would definitely recommend it for the positives I mentioned above, but I think my high expectations ended up making this book a bit of a letdown for me.

Full review: https://picturethisliteraturecom.word...
Profile Image for Marie.
464 reviews175 followers
January 15, 2020
Real rating: 4,5 stars.
We Used To Be Friends was such a brilliant read and a necessary one, too. There are too few books about friendships and friendship break-ups and how painful that can be, too, and this book NAILED IT. I loved the dual POV and the originality of going back and forth in James and Kat's relationship. Bittersweet and emotional, this is such a good read I'm definitely going to recommend.

Full review coming soon on the blog!

Thank you to Amulet Books UK / Abrams & Chronicle Books YA UK for the ARC of this book. This did not, in any way, influenced my thoughts and rating.

My Blog - Drizzle & Hurricane Books - Twitter - Bloglovin'
Profile Image for michelle (magical reads).
819 reviews214 followers
December 9, 2019
3.75 stars

read on my blog

**I received an ARC from Netgalley. These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.**

Everything felt so easy then: friendships, boyfriends, the future,. But now my feelings are too messy. It’s like something has been rotting from within and now there’s no way to know when it started.


I was intrigued by the title; I mean, We Used to Be Friends is very on the nose, but it’s exactly what this book is about, and I loved it for that. I feel like people forget that books portray people within a moment, and that sometimes, romances and friendships aren’t forever. We Used to Be Friends depicts the deterioration of a female friendship, not for any bad reasons but just because people grow away from each other sometimes.

The dual timelines were really developed. You pretty much know a general outline of what went down, but you only know from one girl, at different times. Kat’s plot line goes forward, as she realizes she’s bisexual (ownvoices!!) and dates a girl. Meanwhile, James’s narrative is told backwards; you know the end result of her pulling away but you only get to see pieces of it in Kat’s chapters.

Knowing a new person is a special kind of magic, because they don’t have to see everything.


I loved having both perspectives, especially because it emphasizes that the girls don’t “break up” (so to speak) for any one reason. James increasingly grows annoyed with Kat, not because of her sexuality, but because she’s always focused on herself and doesn’t see how her lack of support affects James. Kat is honestly oblivious to all of this; some people are just absorbed with their own lives, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend, a high-profile break-up if there ever was one, and she realizes she’s attracted to her new friend.

From the other side, James is dealing with her own break-up and her parents’ divorce, both of which Kat didn’t even know about. She doesn’t help with how bad the friendship gets because she internalizes all her feelings and keeps her irritation to herself, which honestly I relate to. This felt so real to me. When you’re close to someone, it’s not like you want to be annoyed with them, and you’re definitely not going to tell them.

“Sure. Good luck with this latest incarnation of yourself.” He says it like a biting insult, but shouldn’t we all be trying to be the latest incarnation of ourselves? I’ve never been happier to feel so little like the girl I was last year.


This book had one of the best portrayals of outgrowing a friendship. Not for bad reasons, although not for good: it’s just something that happens. Even if you’ve been best friends with someone, in the end, you’re living as separate people, so it’s only natural for you to grow apart. It’s just so interesting and so relatable to me, having been a teenage girl with ex-best friends. There’s this whole person who you know a million little things about but you don’t even talk to anymore; it’s really such a sad occurrence. But again! A natural one! Pick We Used to Be Friends up whether you’ve felt this way or not!
read more here

full review to come

original review:

such a good depiction of best friends growing apart
Profile Image for Vee_Bookish.
1,203 reviews267 followers
March 21, 2020
I'm also a book blogger: Vee_Bookish

My expectations from this book before I read it was that we would meet one friend at the start of the friendship or a high point in the friendship, and one at the end of the friendship, slowly meeting in the middle and there would be some sort of big reveal as to what caused the break-up. I fully expected to bawl like a baby by the end. This... did not happen.

We Used To Be Friends is, well, it's a bit of a mess. Instead of what I thought would happen, the chapters felt all over the place for no real reason other than a gimmick, I had to continuously check where I was in the story to the point where I nearly started making a spreadsheet. The friendship was clearly broken at the chronological start of the friendship, so you never got to see a real moment where the friends were inseparable.

James is actually an awful person. She spends her time building Habitat's for Humanity so she can feel like she's better than everyone else, she's controlling to the point of abusive, choosing to not speak her feelings and then send two word texts to Kat in order to make Kat run around trying to work out what she did wrong, then she blows up at Kat for being too extra. I saved many examples of James shittiness, including when Kat started she was scared to be herself around James because she felt like James was judging her, when she felt like he parent's break-up was more important than the death of Kat's mother, when she spends basically the whole book being jealous of Quinn but not bothering to ask for time just with Kat, which Kat would have gladly given and the straight up gaslighting during the major argument.

Kat, I love. She's a messy human being and can come across as selfish but I don't think that was it. She spends so much time trying to make everyone else happy, and making sure other people's needs were met and just got shat on for it from James. She's appreciative of every kind gesture, like when James bough her emoi earrings and she put them on immediately, taking a picture for Instagram, when she tries her hardest to like her Dad's new girlfriend despite still healing from her mom's death, when she was devastated after the argument with James yet still went to an event with Quinn, because she knew it meant a lot to Quinn.

I left the story not upset for anyone but Kat (and maybe James' ex boyfriend Logan, run while you still can mate), wishing that Kat ditches James entirely and gets herself new friends that make as much effort as she does to show their appreciation.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
Read
December 1, 2019
Sometimes a friendship ends with something huge. Other times, two people grow apart for a variety of reasons that aren't necessarily big bangs, but a ton of small ones that inevitably break them apart. Spalding digs into this kind of friendship breakup in a story told in a creative -- and effective -- timeline. James's narrative moves backwards from her leaving for college after the summer post-senior year, while Kat's moves forward from the first month of senior year and as readers, we see all of the things that add up as they come, but we're left moving forward in the story because we're looking for that one thing. But there is no single thing. It's a lot of things, on both sides.

Kat discovers she's bisexual, while James's parents are breaking up because her mom has found a new partner, and those are two big revelations in the story, connected because of how they define each of the girls to themselves and one another. Kat becomes close with her girlfriend, whiles James finds herself needing to spend more time better understanding herself and what it is she really wants in her life.

Both girls are well-rounded, though I found James a bit more compelling. It's interesting to read reviews calling them unlikable, as I don't think it's true in either case. Is unlikable the word people use for complex now? Both of these girls are high school seniors and have a lot going on, and to me, they read like high school seniors who have a lot going on. None of us are particularly amazing humans at that point in our lives because there's so much going on. Both girls are equally deserving of empathy though for this, as well as the slow breakup of their long-time friendship.

As always, Spalding develops some great parents in the story, which I always appreciate.

This book has humor, heart, and heartbreak, and I think it's one a lot of readers will relate to. I've yet to read it as of this review, but I think it'll be awesome to pair this book with When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk, another friendship breakup story.
Profile Image for Izzie.
570 reviews112 followers
March 16, 2020
*3.5 Stars*
(Thank you to my Mum for typing this review for me).
This book is about two main characters , James and Kat, as they enter their senior year together after being best friends for over a decade. It has a dual time line, with Kat's perspective from the start of the senior year, and James' perspective starting from the end of the year. This chronicles their fracturing friendship and the heartbreak which comes along with it.
What I Liked:
- Friend break ups. We read countless stories that focus on romantic breakups, but friendship breakups can be just as painful, if not more than romantic ones. I really felt for both characters as their friendship started slipping away from them and I think most readers will be able to connect to what happens to the bond between them.
- The romance. I really enjoyed Kat's journey in discovering her bisexuality and her budding romance with Quinn. I liked how supportive they were of each other and it was a very communicative relationship.
- Family. Both Kat and James have difficult family lives and it felt very authentic because no ones family is perfect.
What I Didn't Like:
- Characters. I definitely liked Kat more than James and I feel there should have been more balance between the characters so that I could have connected with both of them.
- Substance. While I liked the topic of a friendship break up it didn't feel there was enough substance to fill a whole book. Some parts felt irrelevant and repetitive . Also the dual time line became a little confusing at times.
Overall this was an interesting exploration of friendship and growing up. I definitely enjoyed reading it, but it's not something that's going to stick with me.
Profile Image for Juan.
166 reviews13 followers
February 19, 2020
The cool thing about the timeline moving forwards and backwards at the same time is that instead of crying at the climax of the book I just cried on and off the whole time.
Profile Image for Jamie.
169 reviews47 followers
December 26, 2020
I'm someone who had a friend breakup that was more emotionally taxing than any relationship breakup that I've been through, and this book brought up all those old emotions. (not to downplay any past relationships if they stumble upon this...)

This book was really interesting in how I could honestly see both sides of the story and there was no winner and loser. I could understand how James felt ignored and abandoned by her best friend and I could understand how Kat felt that James was keeping secrets and living year long lies, and the betrayal that came from that. When I read a book like this I tend to generally side with the queer characters over the straight ones, but in this book I was more drawn to James, which gave this book a different reading experience for me as well.

I also really enjoyed the jumping timeline nature of the book, as it definitely heightened the mystery of "what happened" and left me needing to keep reading to find all the details.

This was definitely emotionally taxing, but it was a really good story about a topic not always discussed. And it hits the emotional element out of the park. 4.5/5
Profile Image for elise (the petite punk).
376 reviews112 followers
January 2, 2021
I was prepared to absolutely love this but...yeah, that just didn’t happen. The back and forth timeline paired with the dual POVs was incredibly confusing and I hated the fact that the last chapter didn’t end in current time. It almost made the book seem unfinished. There were a few emotional and sweet moments but for the most part, I felt like the author kept coming really close to making valid points about friendships, family, teenage relationships, etc. and then missing the mark. I didn’t like any of the characters and the dialogue seemed a bit unrealistic. Unfortunately I was disappointed with We Used To Be Friends.
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews113 followers
July 19, 2020
2 stars

The only thing I cared about in this book was the exploration of friendship and how friends sometimes grow apart and sometimes friend break-ups happen. I thought the author did a decent job of portraying what a friendship break-up feels like and I really appreciated that.

That said, I didn't care about anything else in this book. The characters annoyed me to no end and there was pretty much no plot outside of the friendship break-up which wasn't enough to carry the story. I also didn't really care enough about either one of our main characters for the break-up itself to have an emotional impact on me.

There were tiny little plot threads that got mentioned once or twice and then just,,, never got resolved, which left this book feeling very messy. The author tried to incorporate new friendships and romances into the story, but none of them were developed enough for me to care about them.

The voices of the main characters weren't distinct enough for me to tell who we were following, which left me with a lot of confusion. I also thought the non-linear structure of the story made the whole thing even more confusing. Because now, not only was I confused about which character we were following, but also about when each chapter was taking place.

At the end of the day, the book just left me with a lot of confusion and indifference and I'm upset because I had high expectations for this one.
Profile Image for Cande.
1,030 reviews177 followers
November 21, 2020
We Used To Be Friends is a friendship break-up book, a character-driven story about James and Kat and everything that leads them to not be friends anymore. Alternating chapters between the two girls, while also jumping the time around, the story retells their senior year. From James's mom leaving to Kat coming out as bisexual, the year is emotional charge and very intense. Their friendship changes and they slowly grow apart. This was what brought me to the story, to be honest, and what I found instead was a very underdeveloping mess that didn't have a point.

James and Kat are both very messy charactes and that's fine. Kat is self-center, trying so hard to please everyone, she loves the spotlight and throws herself into relationships forgetting other people around her. James doesn't want things to change, she loves the steady and constant relationship she has and when things start to go all wrong everywhere, she doesn't know how to cope. She's jealous and lashes out, hurting everyone around her. There's so much miscommunication, so many grievances never aired between them. As we see more of their senior year, I was kind of rooting for their break-up. It's clear that their friendship is not healthy anymore and they both need to grow.

But that's the thing, the story is so flat. It starts with August after senior year, James reaching out to Kat, and then it goes back to show everything that happened between them in that year. But also, how they experienced so many things by themselves, changing on their own. But in terms of character development, we get nothing. We see their flaws, their flaws are called out, but nothing happens about that. The story starts and ends in the same place and I don't really care about them. There's no point to the story; we know they're going to break-up, the break-up happens but we don't really see the emotional toll it has on them, and they really don't change for the better at all. Why should I care about two white girls fighting and being just the worst? I promise friendship break-up, I was expecting heartbreak and gut-punch conversations and so much grief. And that's not what I got. I got nothing.

This is supposedly a character-driven story, you're supposed to care about them and their relationship, that's the whole point of the story! Besides that, Amy Spalding spent so much time with the senior year when she could have given us more of their childhoods and fierce friendship. Sure, we're told that they are best friends forever but we don't really ever see that at all.

I would have preferred to see more of what happens next, especially with that whole thing of James reaching in chapter one. If we are going to believe that reconciliation is possible, I have to see if they're working to do better. Otherwise, I just don't care, better for everyone that they're not friends anymore.

ALSO a huge pet peeve, but the way Amy Spalding goes back to show a moment that the other girl already hinted about because apparently, we need to see it twice, really annoyed me. For example, from the beginning we know James breaking up with Logan is all about what happened with her mom, so why go back to show us when we have all moved on? A waste of space, really. We didn't need to see the same scenes twice, we get it, we understand what you're implying omg.

Overall, I was just really disappointed by this story and I don't want to think about it anymore. What a mess.
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,327 reviews231 followers
December 5, 2019
Kat and James had been best friends since they were serendipitously paired together in Kindergarten. Both were looking forward to senior year for different reasons. Kat just wanted to get though this last year, and was anticipating all the new experiences waiting for her in college, while James was eager to be a senior and to enjoy her final year of high school with her best friend at her side. However, neither expected it would be the end of a decade long friendship.

I am telling you, right now, I had a headache, when I finished this book, due to all the crying I did. Romantic breakups are painful, but we rarely acknowledge how traumatic a friend breakup can be. My tears are evidence, that Spalding did a fantastic job depicting the collapse of this storied friendship. So, considered yourself warned.

Spalding told this story from both Kat and James' point of view, but she did so, from opposite ends of the timeline. James' story began at the end, with her leaving town for college, and Kat's started from the beginning of the school year. I found the dual timeline to be quite successful and meaningful for me. James' narrative had more insight, since she could reflect on the past, while Kat's had more unknown's. Since there was overlap, I also experienced many things in multiple ways, and we all know, perspective is everything. It was interesting the way their life situations were flipped, too. Kat's year started with heartbreak, and ended with everything coming up roses, while it was the opposite for James.

James' point of the view definitely elicited more tears from me. Her life sort of imploded, and everything she believed in seemed like a lie. There were some positive things that came out of what happened, and Spalding left me hopeful for other things, but James lost a lot, and it broke my heart watching her slow retreat from everyone and her self-imposed isolation.

Kat's side of the story made me smile a whole lot. Her family was still in the process of healing following her mother's death, and they were slowly regrouping. Not only was Kat's home life improving, but she fell in love and discovered a lot about herself, included that she was bisexual. The friend breakup seemed to leave more of a mark on Kat, as well, and she tried to make some changes in order to be a better person.

This was a story that resonated with me, because I have experienced those painful friend breakups, and I believe many others will be able to relate to Kat and James' story as well.

Overall: A sensitive and emotional tale of loss, love, healing, and self discovery.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for thi.
607 reviews84 followers
March 17, 2020
4.5/5
- two words: friend breakups
- we’ve all been through them, some more dramatic than others, some less, but no matter the situation I’m sure everyone could in some way relate to this
- Here the hurt was slowly building, a culmination of internal and external frictions and honestly bad timing
- James and kat are written imperfectly, aka realistically, and were quite relatable whether situationally or behaviourally
- The alternating POVS and non-linear timeline (even though the chapters are dated) could be a little confusing at first but the gist is caught for the most part
- Not a happy go lucky read but impactful nonetheless
- (Also there’s a super sweet f/f romance that is just 🥺💕)
Profile Image for Lisen.
245 reviews57 followers
February 17, 2021
I added this to my tbr almost a year before it was published (and that was before I actually paid attention to upcoming releases) and I wanted to like it so bad. Friendship stories are so underrepresented and underappreciated and while I think this did have some good moments while discussing the impact of friendships ending (I might have cried) it wasn't enough to save it

I feel like my main complaint with this is that the dual timelines didn't make sense. It felt like something thrown in to make the book more appealing but it just fell so flat. Not only am I still confused about what exactly happened and how the relationships change. I also think it did James' character a disservice, because we basically see her develop in reverse, and she never really gets a proper ending and has her story tied up the way Kat has.
I do think the final James chapter set in the summer before senior year did work really well to contrast, but there were other ways to do that.

Additionally, which is a much smaller complaint, but something that still really confused me, is the lack of development in Kat and Quinns relationship. They meet, and we're told they talk, but never actually shown any of those conversations, and in the next scene it's however long later and they're super close and start dating and it's just so extremely underdeveloped. I don't necessarily think they're underdeveloped as a couple, but the way we got to that point was so extremely bare bones.

I feel like I can't even have much of an opinion on this because I'm still so confused and didn't really understand the story, which you expect when you read Virginia Woolf, but that's not the goal with YA contemporary

Profile Image for Ryn Lewis.
160 reviews5 followers
January 18, 2023
So, the premise of this book is pretty solid -- the breakup of a lifelong friendship at the end of high school. It's a great topic that deserves attention in YA lit because it happens so much. Kids grow into teens into adults and they change. They grow apart. They discover they're not really compatible with their childhood best friends because childhood friendships are often friendships of convenience. And a lot of us aren't really that nice when we're teens because we don't know any better yet. While neither James nor Kate was particularly likeable from each other's point of view, they are both well-developed, nicely layered, and (I felt) pretty accurate portrayals of two very different young ladies.

My biggest issue with this book is that it just felt gimmicky. A lot of "look, this is DIFFERENT" just to attention-grab (not unlike Kat herself). The fact that James has a boy's name, the bizarre dual timeline, perhaps even Kat's romance with Quinn and petition over the prom couple. Most of it felt kind of purposeless. The timeline was the worst part. It was crazy confusing trying to remember which one you were in, what HAD happened, what HADN'T happened, where in time each of them were respective to the major events in the book, etc. And as far as I can tell, it really served no purpose. I don't think it benefited the story in any way to tell it like that, and quite honestly, reading the last chapter of the book, which was James at the very beginning of the timeline when they were still friends was really pretty depressing. Knowing the end did not make seeing their naivete in the beginning better and it didn't really give any hope that perhaps they would be able to rekindle their friendship at some point.

I think this story would have packed a much stronger punch if I hadn't spent so much of it trying to figure out what was happening and why it was being written that way.
Profile Image for Emma.
892 reviews872 followers
September 21, 2021
2.25/5 Stars

Reading this novel was a bit tricky since every chapter is set at a different time and none of them are in chronological order, there were some points where I actually felt lost. What I did appreciate though was the original idea behind this book: a friendship breakup which was interesting to read about. I would have liked to have seen James and Kat interact a bit more though, it's like I didn't feel connected to their friendship because we never really got the chance to see them happy and carefree, there was always something preventing that.
I was hoping to like this novel a lot more, but it just wasn't the case.
Profile Image for Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd).
1,123 reviews245 followers
January 3, 2020
"By the time you realize you're thirsty, it's too late. You're already dehydrated. Therefore, it stands to reasons that if you feel the end coming, you're already there."
This was such a bittersweet book - in the best way. I just feel really sad and filled with pain about this friendship that just falls apart over time. It definitely hooks you and pulls you into the story. You're so invested you feel the heartbrea and pain alongside Kat and James.

I loved that this story was told in two timelines. From James, we go backward from graduation to the beginning of senior year. We know all that she's been through (and kept secret) throughout the year and how much it's weighed on her. From Kat, we go forward and we see her grow into herself and a new relationship with Quinn as she discovers that she's bisexual.

The story just felt so real and raw. Neither James nor Kat were the perfect friend - James internalized all of her problems, and Kat was kinda self absorbed - but to see them just fall apart hurts in a specific way. It's this settled discomfort and loss that doesn't quite go away and Amy Spalding captured it perfectly.
Profile Image for Catalina.
1,591 reviews44 followers
January 29, 2020
I would have liked it a lot more if not for the fact that it jumps around the entire year a lot. I got confused a few times about what was going on with the characters when it skipped so far in the past and then back to the present and such.

But, it was a very relatable story. Friendship breakups are the worst.
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