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When You Were Everything

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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 realized 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.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published March 10, 2020

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About the author

Ashley Woodfolk

13 books697 followers
Ashley Woodfolk has loved reading and writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated from Rutgers University and worked in children's book publishing for over a decade. Now a full-time mom and writer, Ashley lives in a sunny Brooklyn apartment with her cute husband, her cuter dog, and the cutest kid in the world. Her books include The Beauty That Remains, When You Were Everything, and the Flyy Girls Series.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 864 reviews
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
603 reviews87.3k followers
March 27, 2021
I think this book is SO important. I've said it pretty much every time I talk about wanting to read this book, but the loss of friendship is something so prevalent in all stages of life and it's a topic I wish was covered more. This did it perfectly. It offered just the right amount of reconciliation that I hoped for. You got to see a lot of development, growth, and healing from the main character. Friendships end for all sorts of reasons and it's a really hard loss and I think this book covered it tremendously well. Bullying was a prevalent topic and I felt like it was realistic, especially regarding the danger of rumour spreading. I enjoyed that the story alternated between then and now portions to give a fully rounded look at the story. There was a cute romance added, but the real focus was the platonic relationship and the difficulties of loss. It was a refreshing change. I do think that the middle of this dragged a bit. It's a very character driven story and the plot didn't really come in until the last third or so of the book so there was a point where I wanted the story to be tightened up a little bit. But overall I think this is a book that everyone would be able to relate to and one that offers a lot of insight into the pain of friendship breakups, but also how to go forward from that, especially after losing a relationship as long lasting and strong as Layla and Cleo's.
Profile Image for Madita.
506 reviews17.6k followers
August 31, 2022
This is one of my new favourite books.

This isn't a romance story but a story about falling apart and losing your best friend. I was scared to read this because I have lost multiple of my friends because of different reasons and was terrified of getting emotional.
Spoiler alert: I bawled my eyes out and could not stop crying

This story has a lot of foreshadowing, macbeth references, quotes and ways of thinking that involve more than just friendships.
The story of Cleo and Layla is not only heartbreaking but something inevitable that happens to millions of people.
Right from the beginning, I just knew that would relate to this especially because of the changes Layla went through.

Everything except from the drama aspect that took this book to a level that i did not expect, could be a real life event. Growing apart, changing, forgetting, loneliness, jealousy as well as anger are portrayed in a way that made me cry, scream and overall feel not only sorry for both characters but also angry.

This book is told in a then vs now perspective, which tells the story of how Cloe and Layla stop being friends. We have everything from the slight changes in a person and the way they act with others to the big mistakes with characters made.

Both characters did so many things wrong in this books. I started screaming at some of the things they did and I did not understand how it could have gone this far.
Since this book discusses both fate, inevitable decision as well as decisions made because of certain emotions, there is a wide range of different theories in this book, not directly related to the friendship between the two, that gives us quite a lot of foreshadowing of what will happen.

In combination with the relationships of Cole's parents, her relationship with Dom as well as Sydney and Willa, we can see how different fates and decisions have different outcomes for not only friendships but also romance.

The mac beth aspect of this entire story brought everything beautifully together and the character development we see Cloe go through by experiencing new things as well as by analysing the macbeth play, she grows a lot by the end and is in my opinion not only a better version of herself but also a better version for open and new friendships.

There are a lot of life lessons in this book that are beautifully adapted and made generic in a way that even me as a reader can relate to them. This is also done in a way that the entire story does not have one moment, where I felt bored.
I was hooked from the first sentence and could not wait to read everything.

As much as my heart is in pain, the ending was perfect. It was exactly what I wanted to happen even if I got hurt from it.

An amazing book about friendship that has a subplot of romance and the correct amount of drama that made me fall in love with this.
I can only recommend this and it will definitely be a book that I will not be forgetting at any time.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,427 reviews8,339 followers
March 18, 2020
My favorite fiction book of 2020 so far, thank goodness for the year of novels that focus on friendship! We Used to be Friends validated my heartbreak over the close friendships I lost in 2019, and When You Were Everything both validated that heartbreak and pushed me to believe in the power of opening my heart again despite past friendship pains. I feel grateful to Ashley Woodfolk for writing such a nuanced and realistic portrayal of friendship. As someone who has had quite a few intense friendships that either still exist today or have ended, I often feel unseen because fiction, including YA, focuses so much on romance. This book, however, gives voice to the type of close relationship that has both sustained me and hurt me throughout my life: best friendship.

The novel follows Cleo Imani Baker and Layla Hassan, two best friends who met at age 12 and have prioritized each other over everything ever since. Their friendship starts to shift when Layla begins to spend more time with the “Chorus Girls,” who make an explicit point not to include Cleo in their friend group. Cleo’s initial hurt at Layla valuing her new friends over their friendship triggers a painful cycle of name-calling, misunderstandings, and betrayals that sends their friendship lurching toward the end. Afterward, Cleo is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart, all while dealing with her parents’ separation too. While a new friend and a potential romantic flame show interest in Cleo, she has to decide whether to trust them with her heart, especially after Layla bruised and battered it in the fallout of their friendship.

I loved this book for its complex and relatable portrayal of friendship. Almost everything Cleo experienced, I’ve experienced. Seeing a best friend deprioritize you for someone else yet not having the language to describe it in the moment? Yep. Hurting your friend after your friend hurt you in a way you’re unproud of, yet felt cathartic at the time? Been there. Seeing someone you care about change to the point where you no longer really know or love them, and taking a long time to accept that? So me in 2019 and even now. Through the dissolution of Cleo and Layla’s friendship, Woodfolk creates a narrative that feels so, so validating for me and I’m hoping for others who have lost a best friend or a close friend who they loved. With accessible and clear writing, she highlights how much losing a friend can hurt, especially a friend who you trusted with everything.

At the same time, Woodfolk shares the healing process in When You Were Everything. I loved seeing Cleo learn to trust Sydney, another girl she befriends. Woodfolk shows how it takes Cleo time to trust Sydney after Layla broke her heart, and even though it takes time, Cleo learns to open up again and share herself, her joys and her pains. Watching Cleo’s healing process gave me hope for my own healing process and motivated me to celebrate the close friendships I do have right now, despite some of my past ones that have burned me. Woodfolk includes some additional subtle yet brilliant insights throughout the novel too, such as how sometimes you just have to go through your pain instead of trying to erase it, as well as how sometimes you idealize someone and have to learn to see them for who they really are, instead of who you want them to be.

Overall, a fantastic novel I’d recommend for all fans of young-adult fiction. While the book’s pacing felt a little slow for the first 50-100 pages, it does pick up, especially for me when I started to get invested in Cleo’s various relationships and her healing process. While there is a romantic relationship in this novel, it never overtakes the importance of friendship, thank goodness. I’m loving all these novels on friendship so please continue to send any friendship-related book recommendations my way. Props for the inclusion of an almost entirely, if not actually entirely cast of characters of color as well as queer representation too. In her author’s note, Woodfolk shares how she wanted to write this book in part because of the close friendships she’s lost in her life – so I’m grateful for her vulnerability and for her creation of this friendship-focused, beautiful, sad, and hopeful piece of art.
Profile Image for Lisa Wolf.
1,609 reviews173 followers
February 23, 2020
It’s refreshing to read a contemporary YA novel where romance takes a backseat. In When You Were Everything, the focus is on friendship — or more specifically, on the end of friendship.

Few things are more traumatic for teen girls that losing a best friend. In When You Were Everything, we witness the pain and sorrow and rage that occurs when besties forever, Cleo and Layla, fall apart.

It happens the way these things do. Friends since age twelve, the girls start moving in different directions at the start of their sophomore year of high school. Layla wants more than anything to join the school chorus, and while the “Chorus Girls” adopt her right away, they have no interest in including Cleo in their elite circle.

Cleo’s feeling are hurt over and over again as Layla spends more time with her new friends than with Cleo, and small slights turn into bigger and bigger betrayals, until there’s a final and irreparable break.

Cleo is also dealing with her parents’ separation, and her new friendless status is made even worse by a stream of bullying and harassment she endures from the Chorus Girls while Layla stands by and does nothing.

Cleo is smart and driven, but she also makes some poor choices, lashing out in hurtful ways when her own feelings are hurt. And while I felt that Layla was more to blame for the friendship break-up, Cleo isn’t blameless either.

When You Were Everything is hard to read at times, specifically because it’s so relatable. My own high school years are way in the past, but Cleo’s feelings as she’s isolated and tormented ring very true, in a sadly timeless sort of way.

I enjoyed seeing how Cleo opens herself up to new friendships and learns to see what’s in front of her instead of living inside her own head so much. There’s a sweet romance too, but it’s less important than what Cleo learns about herself and about friendship.

The cast of characters is nicely diverse, and I liked the way the story includes the importance of family and the impact of parents’ and grandparents’ support, love, and involvement. Despite the sadness of the end of a friendship, the book ends on a hopeful note.

Definitely a recommended read!

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. Full review at Bookshelf Fantasies.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,485 reviews192 followers
July 1, 2021
UPDATE: 01/07/2021 - Reread and review added


3.5 Stars rounded up to 4

Well I may have teared up a little at the end!

What a fabulously painful story looking at the slow demise of a friendship.

Some parts were so brutal I actually gasped out loud as this once solid pair were torn apart by jealousy, resentment, and revenge. I loved that it was told in a dual timeline from Cleo's perspective. We move back and forth between 'Then' and 'Now' and slowly learn about the events that started the downward spiral. The pacing is a bit slow at times and a good edit to reduce some of the less engaging parts would have made this a more enjoyable read for me. The end had me a bit emotional because sometimes, as in this story, I listened to this as an audiobook which was fabulously read. It is filled with high school teen drama but underneath it all is a story I think most people can relate to.
3.5 RTC
This is my third review to come. Going back to work in the real world is ruining my Goodreads life 😭😭😭😭😭
So much less time to read and write reviews!
Profile Image for Justin A Reynolds.
Author 13 books1,255 followers
January 16, 2020
This book has everything I want and gave me a few things I didn’t understand I needed. Wise and melancholic, gorgeously nostalgic, Woodfolk’s stories pummel your heart and make you stronger for it.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
631 reviews1,689 followers
December 17, 2021
If you've ever wanted to read a story about friendship breakups - the messiness, the bitterness, the yearning - then I cannot recommend this splendid book, When You Were Everything, enough.

- In alternating timelines between 'Then' and 'Now', this book follows Cleo, a Black teen who has a friendship breakup with her then-best friend, Layla, a Bengali teen with a stutter.
- This book. I never knew a book could make you feel so vulnerable and so seen; a book that lays bare the messiness and hurt and pain in friendship breakups while also being incredibly empathetic and understanding.
- I feel like there are no likeable characters here - which I liked, and I feel is the point. In friendship breakups, no one is often 'right'; both sides hurt each other and also hurt themselves in turn.
- At its heart, I just loved a book centered entirely on friendships; how they are so important and formative to teenage girls, how they can be so healing and wonderful but also hurt as well.
- I loved the resolution of this book. It was validating, bittersweet, and what anyone who is going through or went through a friendship breakup needs to read.

Content/trigger warning: ableism, bullying, parental separation
Profile Image for BookNightOwl.
975 reviews169 followers
March 11, 2020
When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfork brought me back to my high school days. It brought out all the feels that those days gave me. When Cleo starts realizing that she might be losing her best friend she begins having a hard time dealing with life. Not only is she losing her best friend but her parents are also separating. This books deals with alternating dates "Then" and "Now" Then talks about how her friendship ended and Now deals with the present day Cleo. I also enjoyed the diversity in this book and a great story line.

Thank you Netgalley and Delcorte Press for providing an ARC of this book for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
471 reviews650 followers
March 24, 2022
This book was beautifully written though the pacing was a little slow at times. Cleo and Layla have been best friends for years. But once Layla starts hanging out with the chorus girls she gains a little more confidence and starts hanging out with Cleo less; Not to mention Layla's new friend Sloane doesn't seem to like Cleo at all and turns the other chorus girls against her. And Sloane ends up starting a rumor which really hurts Cleo and her family.

While reading it I wanted to judge Cleo for how selfish she could be at times but then reminded myself that sometimes I have those same feelings of jealousy. I recognize that urge to not want to share a friend with everyone else. To feel a little possessive over them. But at the same time it seemed like Cleo wanted to hold Layla back. Like she couldn't handle Layla rising above her stutter and being the shining star for once.

I think this books does a great job exploring all different types of loss and the building of different relationships.

I received this book from Netgalley and Random House Children/Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Layla Fernanda.
178 reviews104 followers
April 18, 2020
Meu Deus esse livro me pegou no meu ponto fraco. Eu to me acabando de chorar. Sério tenho que até pensar um pouco pra escrever essa resenha depois.

UPDATE 18.04.2020
Finalmente tomei coragem e vim escrever essa "resenha". Não sou muito expert em escrever resenhas, mas juro que vou tentar escrever mais sobre minhas opiniões sobre os livros.

Acho que todo mundo tem um assunto em especifico que mexe com seus sentimentos e que faz te lembrar de alguma ferida antiga. Esse livro foi o que tocou nessa minha ferida.
Bom, o foco principal do livro é na Cleo e na sua melhor amiga Layla (oi, xará!) e em como essa amizade se formou, como ela foi importante e em como com o tempo as duas se perderam. É uma história fácil de se identificar. As duas erram, as duas se machucam mas o inevitável acontece, elas se afastam.
Doeu muito me sentir na pele da Cleo, reviver de novo aquela sensação de abandono e de solidão, principalmente quando mais você precisa. A autora acertou muito nessa parte, de fazer você se sentir na pele da protagonista. E ela apesar de tudo, é uma adolescente, que se magoa, que magoa as outras pessoas também e isso foi uma das coisas que eu mais gostei, que deixou BEM claro que não tem uma certa e errada na história, que simplesmente aconteceu. E que a vida continua. Se afastar das pessoas é uma coisa que, infelizmente, sempre vai acontecer. Pessoas tomam novas direções e acabam se afastando.
Fazia muito, mas muito tempo que eu não chorava tanto com um livro, acho que desde 2018 que não chorava com algum livro, provavelmente o ultimo foi "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo". Terminei no meio da madrugada e tive que acordar meu namorado de tanto que eu soluçava de chorar. Foi pesado para mim, porque me senti muito na pele dos personagens e acabei sentindo como se fosse comigo mesma.
Fico triste de ver que esse livro foi lançado a pouco tempo e não teve tanta divulgação e hype quanto merecia. Então fica aqui do fundo do meu coração essa indicação. Um livro para quebrar seu coração mas ao mesmo tempo te lembrar que a vida segue no final.
É isso.

OBS: Indico muito o audiobook também. Li pouco e o resto ouvi tudo enquanto estava deitada e a narradora conseguiu me prender muito, não senti nada forçado e sim tudo bem natural.
Profile Image for Lucie.
601 reviews230 followers
May 4, 2020
*I received an ARC of this via NetGalley*

The ending of this hit me hard and I did like it a lot. I wish more people had read this so I could talk about it with someone! My biggest "issue" was that the reason Cleo and Layla's friendship ended was used almost like a plot twist? It actually stressed me out that we didn't know why they stopped talking for more than half the book.

I felt like it colored my reading experience a lot because I was constantly wondering what made them act like this and whether the reactions were warranted. Which I think meant that I didn't quite feel all the emotions that Cleo was feeling as I was supposed to. Which is not to say I didn't feel for Cleo at all, I definitely did and wanted to support and hug her and yell at her and all those things while reading. I'm just saying I think I could have felt it more deeply.

What Cleo did was bad and probably unwarranted, but I definitely got where she came from. Layla was being mean to her in a subtle way (Once again if your new friend calls your bff a bitch and you do nothing you're not a friend), and their problems could've definitely been solved by talking it out, but when you're 15/16 that's scary. Woodfolk created realistic teens who acted realistically even if they weren't always the best. They were learning and growing.

I really liked following Cleo's journey and seeing her learn how to be herself again. I appreciated the lessons she learned not just about friendship but about her parents as well. Learning that your parents are people too is one of the hardest things and I appreciated how it was dealt with. Overall I really liked this book and would recommend it.
Profile Image for Giulia.
689 reviews102 followers
March 16, 2020
"Losing you wounded me. Probably more than you know. If I hurt you just as deeply, I’m sorry."

This was a somewhat refreshing story to read.
Refreshing but not memorable, if I have to be honest.

It does not happen that often that the focus point of a YA contemporary is not romance, and so when it actually happens you just gotta jump at the occasion and read the damn book.

This was indeed a YA contemporary which heavily centered around friendship and what it means to stop being friend with your BFF – the one person you could not imagine your life without.
And wow, isn't that one of the most painful feelings you could ever experience...

The main topic being something more towards the platonic side of things was lovely to read and experience. There still was romance, but it was not the forefront of the story.

It was a coming-of-age that tackled the deep pain the end of a friendship can cause.
The characters were relatable and enjoyable.
The writing style was good and the plot was smooth if maybe at times a bit too slow.

But can you guess what I am about to say?
Can you feel it in the air?
Can you feel this sense of unease floating around?

Would this even be a Rather Random Review™️ if things did not get awkward and slightly uncomfortable?

As a matter of fact, in the air, there is my complete lack of actual interest towards the story.
In the air, there is me being ever so slightly bored.
In the air, there is how average everything felt for me.

As I have said, I liked how friendship was the true protagonist of the story, but I thought that everything was just too childish and juvenile.
The writing style was a bit too simple and the characters were too naive and sounded too young.

For these reasons I would say that When You Were Everything inscribed itself in the lower side of YA. Which is not a bad thing, but it was simply not for me.
Cleo sounded young and seemed young and acted young. Frustratingly so.
And I simply could not, for the life of me, relate.
I just could not.

The childish/juvinile atmosphere and the trope-y romance did not vibe with me. The love interest was the new kid in town (which is a trope I do not particularly enjoy) and I thought the romance was a bit too sappy and cheesy.
Call me heartless. Call me cold-hearted.
Call me as you like, because if will not change the fact that I was not a fan of the romance.

There was nothing remarkably bad about this book, but there was also nothing remarkably good.
It was, with all the due respect, nothing to write home about.

It was honestly pretty much forgettable.
Harsh but true.
It was a very much middle-of-the-road book, and I can already tell you I am forgetting almost everything about it.

This was not bad, do not get me wrong!
It was an enjoyable, easy read about the pains of an ended friendship.
As a topic, I think that is massively overlooked in YA contemporary, which mainly goes around romance, so reading When You Were Everything was welcome.
But I was not blown away, impressed or particularly engaged unfortunately.

If you needed any more proofs regarding how cynical I can be, look no further.
I am, indeed, a cynical, awkward potato.

"Why should he decide when he wants to be my friend? Why does everyone else get to pick when they want to be close to me and when they don't? I'm sick of it."
Profile Image for Hannah // Book Nerd Native.
189 reviews338 followers
July 9, 2020
I'm not crying, I'm not crying! This one was great. I was curious towards the end if it was going to be a 3 or 4 star. I really wanted the protagonist to go through a couple of things in order to give it a full 4.5 stars, but the ending really was perfect. I loved what the author did with this story, and I think it covers really beneficial topics for teenagers, specifically teenage girls.
Profile Image for It's Jess✨.
103 reviews457 followers
September 26, 2021
More like 4.5
This book reminds me a lot of my experience in middle school and high school. I am well into my 20's and I still related to the characters. I truly loved all the aspects of this story. The representation was so amazing! I enjoyed how there was a reflection on how to treat people and our expectations of people. The only thing I didn't appreciate is that this story is supposed to focus on the friendship of the main character and yet her romantic relationship helped her through this hard time. But I did like the discussion of love and how people have to communicate and how it can change over time. I loved a lot of elements and I only wish the plot was a bit more complex and if the romantic relationship wasn't one of the main reasons for the main character to establish her confidence.

I wish I had this book back when I was in high school. I gave this book five stars because I feel like this is an important story!
Profile Image for Ebony Rose.
313 reviews123 followers
August 5, 2020
Once again, I’ve stayed up til a criminally late hour to finish a book I just couldn’t part with, hiya 3:30AM, how are you?

RTC tomorrow morning when I’m equipped with (not enough) sleep and (too much) caffeine.

ALRIGHT, here we go. Am I well rested? No. Will this coffee work miracles? I hope so. Do I regret reading this book in nearly one sitting and foregoing sleep, thereby compromising my cognitive and intellectual abilities for likely the entire day today? No.

Not to be corny, but When You Were Everything was everything. What a beautiful, tender, aching heartbeat of a novel. Every feeling, every description, every character in this book pulsed with life and love and sadness. I was drawn in from the first page.

I don't think we talk enough about friendship break-ups as a society. How they can destroy your life and break your heart and cause you as much anguish as the loss of any other important relationship. So much of life and literature is oriented around romantic relationships and families, and so this was so refreshing. This book made me feel seen and validated. Made me feel as though the literal years it's taken me to get over losing friends were not crazy or dramatic of me, but just a very real and difficult part of life. I learned so much from the main characters in this novel; their bravery in facing their friendship hurt, their bravery in trusting new friends, their bravery in facing each other every day in school all inspired me. They both did hurtful things to the other, they both reacted callously and maliciously to mask what was really simply sadness and missing one another, and I could so relate to that feeling. The book does such a wonderful job of describing the slow decay of a friendship, where once you notice it happening, nothing you do can really stop it (and in fact, your desperate grabbing at the remnants of your friendship with the aim of saving it can often speed up the decaying process). Wow, Ashley Woodfolk completely nailed this painful experience. But, what I loved most is that the book has hopeful threads all throughout. Though the friendship break-up was sad and difficult, there were so many moments that showed us that if you look hard enough, there is often something hopeful, something promising, that comes out of something broken.
Profile Image for Niki.
716 reviews112 followers
January 3, 2021
I'm reminded once again why I shouldn't read YA anymore. It's frustrating for everyone involved, especially when you think you're reading a book about a friendship and you're getting pages and pages of how much Cleo wants to lick Dom's collarbone instead, or her ~coincidentally~ deciding to let her friendship with Layla go for good when she and Dom are officially in a relationship; of course it was getting a boyfriend that finally fulfilled her, finding new friends in Sydney and Willa just didn't cut it. Not to mention the fact that Cleo and Dom were insufferable to read about, the narration was so desperate to paint their relationship as super deep and philosophical ("Oh, we talked about fate and stars and Shakespeare~") that it ended up falling flat on its face for me.

Also, the entire drama about is brushed off like it was nothing in the end, even when it's made to be a huge deal, to the point of a possible police investigation. Why even include that, then? Just for some quick drama?

Special mention: Sloane

The book had some good parts, namely that Cleo was a very realistic teenager that speaks and acts like one, the friend breakup was equally realistic and painful as hell, the emphasis on how hard human relationships can be was effective, and everything involving the diner was absolutely lovely, but they weren't enough to save the book overall for me.
Profile Image for Xueting.
265 reviews123 followers
October 28, 2021
A very honest and moving story about a friendship break-up, how to heal and grow from it, still cherish the person and the friendship that was, and make new friends afterwards. As someone who’s also lost very close friends over the years, I connected with Cleo and Layla’s story a lot. I love how a few different types of love (even platonic love between exes) are explored together like they all have value, and the friendship isn’t sidelined for the romantic relationship here. We really need more books about platonic love especially between women, especially between people of colour. Any recommendations are much appreciated!!
Profile Image for Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner).
381 reviews1,715 followers
June 14, 2020
"It's not like it was a relationship," he says, and I frown, annoyed at his reaction. Perhaps he doesn't know how it feels....to break in this particular way. Or perhaps it's different for boys? But girls cling to their friends for dear life as they wade through rough waters of learning who they are while everything around and inside them is changing minute by minute. And aren't we all a little in love with our best friends?"

(thank you @randomhousekids for this copy for review consideration)⁣

Oh you guys. This book sliced through my heart in such a visceral way -- probably the parts that are still tender from the friendship breakups that impacted me to my core. Particularly a high school one that was SOOO similar to what happened in this book in how it happened and was the first time I realized the agony of losing a best friend. ⁣

The book flips back and forth from past to present in the most perfect way because we watch Cleo and Layla's friendship dissolve slowly without knowing the big catalyst that got us to the icy and hostile "now" between the two.⁣

It was so hard to watch the friendship crumble in real time. There was a line where she talks about the small ways they chipped away at the friendship -- one not answering a call so the other ignored a text or how sitting somewhere else at lunch led to not waiting for the other after school -- and how those acts snowballed. It was gutting because I think back to all the ways I've seen that play out in my own life -- these little actions leading to reactions that pulled me apart from people. ⁣

When You Were Everything is an intimate look into a crumbling friendship and the unparalleled loss felt after and the pain and joy in making space in our wounded hearts for new friendships as we continue to let go of what was. I loved that it explored the complexities of friendship and friend breakups in all their messy glory and showing the faults in both parties. ⁣

I definitely recommend! Also MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS pleaaase because honestly the friend breakups I've had have scarred me more than any romantic type breakup and yet the mourning of those never seemed as common.
Profile Image for Creya.
333 reviews191 followers
April 5, 2021

What a sweet sweet book about a girl, Cleo, who was abandoned by the person she loved most in the world: her best friend. Following a month of pain and sorrow, she looks for the chance to gain closure and move on from the bestie who will never be hers again. She is able to meet new friends and make new memories along the way. I absolutely loved one of our side characters, Dom, and the book’s ending. Perfect for high school and early college readers, Woodfolk tells the story of imploded friendships well.

“Perhaps he doesn’t know how it feels…to break in this particular way. Or perhaps it’s different for boys? But girls cling to their friends for dear life as they wade through the rough waters of learning who they are while everything around and inside them is changing minute by minute. And aren’t we all a little bit in love with our best friends?”

“That’s the thing about words: they can leave you both unscathed and completely gutted. Girls wage endless wars with their voices, tearing you apart without touching you at all.”
Profile Image for Bri.
Author 1 book176 followers
June 1, 2021
~4.5 stars~

Ugh I really wish I’d had this book as a teen. Absolutely incredible. RTC!
Profile Image for Mana.
136 reviews5 followers
May 20, 2020
4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Love stories and breakups in fiction usually revolve around romantic love, but what about that deep platonic love? Friendships are deep and last years, but what happens when they're over? Society and media don't really explore what happens when friendships end. This book flips the script and tells the story of best friends breaking up.

Chloe is our protagonist. At first, her love for Shakespeare is so cringy because what high schooler likes Shakespeare? Usually, one forced to read Romeo Juliet, Hamlet, or Macbeth but Chloe knows her stuff. Her dad is a librarian in New York City, which explains her deep love and knowledge of literature. He walks on water to Chloe, but she learns reality doesn't always meet expectations.

Our conflict is the falling out between Chloe and Layla, who started out the year as best friends. We have two parallel timelines: one where Layla is still friends with Chloe and another where they're not speaking. The mystery is the inciting incident that caused the two to split. When the timelines converge the focus becomes: how does one move on?

This is a heartwarming and heartbreaking read. It's a book that I recommend for younger humans, especially. Adults can enjoy this too, but it may pull on our older heartstrings a bit more.

This was a galley sent to me from the publisher for an honest review. Thank you so much for opportunity.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,013 reviews1,925 followers
March 25, 2020
I quite enjoyed this book, about the dissolution of a close female friendship. That's a hard situation for anyone to go through, especially when you're a teenager, and I appreciated that Woodfolk acknowledged how both of the main players in this drama were at fault. Both behaved poorly, both suffered hurt feelings, and the reality is that maybe they've just outgrown each other. It's a bittersweet, realistic, and very touching story.

My only real complaints were that a) it ran a bit long, and some of the twists and turns near the end began to feel a bit like piling on, and b) I kind of wish the romantic storyline had been excised so that we could focus solely on the friendship. Not that I disliked the romantic story or anything, just that I loved how Bechdel-y this book could be and I felt like the love story wasn't necessary.
Profile Image for Renae.
1,013 reviews257 followers
July 3, 2020
I haven't spoken to my best friend, Layla, in twenty-seven days, but the snow is making everything feel a little less real—even that. As I look out at the blurry city, I embrace the illusion that everything is fine because it's snowing. And in the snow, I can pretend that the sad things in my life are just dreams I've misremembered.

The worst breakup is never with your significant other. Really, it's not. Instead, it's the breakup of a close friendship that's the most painful and longest felt. When we enter a dating relationship, we acknowledge (perhaps unconsciously) the risk that things won't work out, that maybe this won't be forever. But we rarely think of what would happen if our best friend—with whom we have been more open, more vulnerable, and more ourself with than anyone else—were to slip out of our life. Maybe they go quietly, or maybe they go with a lot of noise and harsh words. It doesn't matter. Nobody is prepared to lose a friend.

When You Were Everything unearths—in gutting, unflinching honesty—the reality of a breakdown in a friendship. Cleo and Layla have been friends since middle school. Not just friends: best friends. While not unhealthily so, they were each other's entire cosmos. They've done everything together...until they stop.

How did it go wrong? Who was at fault? Could it have been avoided? And most important: how do you move on?

I feel that When You Were Everything is a book that hits hard because readers feel so seen by Cleo and the events that unfold her sophomore year of high school. Almost everyone has lost a friend they were extremely close with, in some way or another. The betrayal of seeing your best friend hanging out and having fun with someone besides yourself is...if not universal, then really damn close to it.

Ashley Woodfolk's storytelling, prose, and characterization are 100% on point throughout this novel. I say that this book is high quality, and by that I mean that When You Were Everything is just about the epitome of perfection. The feelings were so real and so intense—the plot may be understated, but this author knows how to craft authentic voices. I both couldn't wait for the incredibly prickly growing pains to be over...but I didn't want to book to end too soon. I wanted to continue watching Cleo learn and adapt and find new things to enjoy and people to enjoy them with.

As a character, Cleo is a bit odd in terms of her likes and dislikes (an ungenerous person might call her pretentious). She likes Shakespeare and Ella Fitzgerald, and I thought those strong, well-developed passions created an excellent backdrop to Cleo's unfolding emotional crises. Because of course...it's not just that she's losing Layla. Of course not. As is true to life, one personal trauma piles on top of another, and it seems like nothing in Cleo's life is stable or going like it should. And I loved that Woodfolk brought nuance to her protagonist's characterization and how her relationship fell apart. Neither Layla nor Cleo were solely to blame here—both girls contributed, both were hurting and hurt each other in turn.

I guess what I'm really trying to say here, with this review is simply this: When You Were Everything is a book that, I feel, cuts straighter and deeper into what it's like to be a teenager girl than many I've read before. This book is excellently written, perfectly plotted, and features a main character who felt so painfully real to me that I never wanted her story to end.

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Profile Image for Samantha Geissler.
565 reviews20 followers
April 5, 2021

“But girls cling to their friends for dear life as they wade ThTs ugh the rough waters of learning who they are while everything around and inside them is changing minute by minute.”

Friend break ups are THE WORST. Honestly, I think they’re more painful than a romantic break up. And it’s not written about enough, and it should be. What topic is more relatable than a once close friend becoming a stranger? Who hasn’t been through that before in their lifetime?

This book was super relatable, and hit me in the feels. The pain that Cleo felt losing Layla; I felt that pain in my bones.

The reason this isn’t a 5 star is because it does take place in high school and there is a lot of petty high school drama that unfolds, that I am just too old for and to be reading about.

I enjoyed that we flip between then and now, the ‘then’ being how and the progress of Layla & Cleo’s friendship ending and the ‘now’ being the aftermath. It seems like Cleo was hit harder, but I think a few chapters from Layla’s perspective would have been interesting!

Cleo was kind of annoying at times, and she wasn’t my favorite character but I was happy to see her grow throughout the story and make peace with a lot of things.

This would be a great story for a middle or high school library and definitely a book high school girls need during those four years.

“But the heart is strange and life is even stranger.”
Profile Image for Ashleigh.
753 reviews41 followers
April 9, 2020
I'm not crying.. You're crying!

This book broke my heart and I couldn't put it down. When You Were Everything follows Cleo Baker, a teenage girl going through a friend-breakup. Doesn't sound very emotional and tragic, but trust me, this book will make you want to cry.

The writing, character development and plot pulled me and were done so well. My heart broke multiple times for Cleo and she felt like a fully-realised flawed but relatable character. If you've ever lost a best friend, you can sympathise will her immediately and watching the breakup happen over the two timelines, it really made me sad.

But what I did appreciate about this book, is that it isn't just about a girl losing her best friend. It's also about her coming to terms with losing important people in her life and moving on. Finding new friends, creating new memories, dealing with the pain. This book was just so beautiful and I need to read more from this author!

Profile Image for Smileitsjoy (JoyMelody).
212 reviews93 followers
March 12, 2020
This book broke me!
For once a book that addresses the complexities of friendships. Across cultures. During high school.
Where romance isn’t the main focus, although can we get a sequel cause i want to know more about Dom and Cleo lol!
Anyway, the writing of this book is amazing. It’s also a book that i would pair with reading of Shakespeare. It really highlights the main themes of the plays.

I related so much to Cleo. I too hid away in books. Wore thick glasses. Didn’t really have friends. Was left out to dry. Saw my family torn apart by divorce.

I think Woodfolk does an incredible job of telling an important story that should be told and needed to be told.
There is strong character development. Just enough suspense. The plot lines and switching between past and present is seamless. Beautiful.

Profile Image for grace.
190 reviews10 followers
November 24, 2021
I’m sobbing. I forgot how much I love this book. I think I appreciated this even more the second time around, and really appreciated the flaws in each character.

Oh my godddd, my heart. I loved this YA book, I couldn’t put it down. This story’s about a teenage friendship breakup, and it beautifully depicts the intricacies of a best friendship — the love, the insecurities, the complexity, the pain. Made me reflect a lot on my younger friendships. Such a bittersweet read; the emotions were so well-written and the plot had so many elements to it!

I absolutely loved how Woodfolk centered Cleo and Layla’s friendship as the main focus, rather than as a side plot like most books — stories about friendships deserve to be told just as much as romantic relationships! This was just lovely, I wished it was longer.
Profile Image for Alexa.
2,118 reviews11.1k followers
February 25, 2021
3.5 stars. Really appreciated the fact that this novel was about a friendship break-up, told in two separate timelines that show the reader how it happened and what happened afterwards.
Profile Image for Codie Wallace.
109 reviews66 followers
August 7, 2022
Have you ever had a friendship break-up? I have… And let me tell you, it’s worse than a regular break-up.

Cleo and Layla. Layla and Cleo. They didn’t go anywhere without each other. Sundays at the diner. Homework in the library after school. They were inseparable. Until Layla joined a new friend group.

A storyline in the Then & Now perspective, gives the background of what happened between this wonderful friendship and the hope of new beginnings.

“You over Everyone”

“I am pissed that I even entertain the idea of forgiveness for someone who had already given up on me, you know?”

Friend breakups are HARD! Especially when it comes to the other person joining a friend group. Middle school, almost everyone is on the same level. Popular kids, nerds, band kids, etc… Those groups are just slowly rising. HighSchool is where the groups begin. Think about all the friends that you had and lost just because of the social standings of going into a group. (Also a group that Despises you).

Ashley Woodfolk did an AMAZING job and showing what the loss of a friend can do. Cleo was going through the stages of grief. And she was going through them HARD. She was pushing everyone away. When you go through pain and loneliness’s like that, you begin to think that everyone is going to treat you the same way. You don’t want that to happen again… right? Cleo was afraid, she was pushing away the people that she didn’t realize were trying their hardest to pick her up and help her.

“Having people who notice when you aren’t OK complicates things”

My heart ACHES for Cleo. It’s hard in highschool! The amount of rumours. The bullies. Everything slips and you feel like the whole world is against you.

I am SO happy that Cleo found her peace. She was able to find happiness in other people and ESPECIALLY in locations. (Don’t ever create memories to replace, create to enjoy!!)

I am chosing sides a bit. Yes, some of the things Cleo did was petty. Miscommunication trope did play a part in this book and I feel like that could have helped solve the problem. But things have a reason, and all things happening in your life are meant to be.
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