Saturday, May 9, 2020

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk - HIGH

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk, 385 pages. Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House), 2019. $18.

Language: R (79 swears 22 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (teen kissing); Violence: G.



Layla and Cleo have been best friends since middle school and are starting their sophomore year. But when Layla clicks with a special interest friend group - the Chorus Girls - Cleo feels left out and abandoned by Layla. Cleo is also experiencing some trouble at home, her parents have recently separated which makes everything hard, especially when things are strained with her best friend so there’s no one to process this grief with. Then, when Cleo says the worst thing possible to Layla the relationship turns toxic. One of Layla’s new friends, Sloane, who doesn’t like Cleo makes life miserable for Cleo, and Layla stands by and lets it happen. It’s terrible when a friendship ends, even more terrible when that friend was everything.

Ashley Woodfolk has masterfully woven a gut wrenching story of friends lost and missed opportunities. Starting in the middle of the story, when Cleo’s feelings are still raw and desperate, the sections are identified by “then” and “now” so the reader discovers both the aftermath and causes at the same time. The discussions of Shakespeare plays were fantastic, and I loved watching Cleo tutor other students; assigned because she’s been cutting school. The bullying is mostly words but very mean. I keep thinking about it - I like when a book stays with me even after I’m finished. This one will be on my mind for a while. 

Lisa Librarian

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