As a contemporary reader I have to say I love reading romance, but a book about friendship is something I love to read as well. Except these books tend to be harder to find. Recently I saw a booktuber talk about When You Were Everything and I knew I needed to read it. A friend of mine thought the same and we did a buddyread. I can tell you it was really worth it. If you want to find out more about this book and what I thought, keep on reading!
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.
“The thing I didn’t realize about having a best friend while I still had one is just how wrapped up she is in everything I do. Every outfit I wear or song I listen to. Every place I go. Losing someone can leave you haunted.”
Where do I even start? When You Were Everything really had everything I was expecting from this book, but didn’t even know I was expecting. Friendships are a big part of everyone’s life, but books don’t often show that when friendships end that they can hurt just as much as when you’re in love and a relationship ends. When you end up being really close to someone when you’re younger I don’t think anyone really expects or thinks they won’t be this way years later. When You Were Everything was really unique for me in that sense.
I loved that this book was switched between ‘then’ and ‘now’. A lot happened between our two main characters, Cleo & Layla, and I think we needed both timelines to get the complete story. When You Were Everything is told through Cleo’s POV. Cleo and Layla became friends when they were twelve and have been inseparable since then. It’s basically them against the world. Until Layla starts to pursue some of her other interests and starts hanging out with the chorus girls. This is hard for two reasons: Cleo isn’t interested in chorus and the new girls don’t exactly make her feel welcome.
“I was getting tired out not being chosen, when for so long, I’d been Layla’s obvious and only pick.”
As the book continues we see them slowly growing apart and it’s painful. I think most of us have experienced a friendship that just didn’t last and slowly grows apart. On top of slowly losing this friendship, Cleo is also dealing with her parents separating. I can’t imagine losing your friends and your sense of home all at once. But that’s where things get tricky. Cleo and Layla don’t communicate as much and Cleo is hurt. There are many misunderstandings that end up leading to bullying and just purposely hurting each other. Let me be clear bullying is never okay and purposely hurting someone when you’re hurt isn’t either! So many times I wish they would just sit down and talk it out, but there was a lot of pain.
Then there’s the other side of a friendship like this ending. How do you trust enough to let knew friends in? Cleo ends up hanging out with a few new people, but clearly tries pushing them away, because she doesn’t want to be hurt again. This was hard to see, because these side characters were really trying to welcome her in their lives. Healing from a friendship break up and making new memories isn’t easy, but Cleo is slowly learning how to do this during the book. When You Were Everything is very much a character driven book and can be considered slow at times, but it really dives into the emotions and dealing with so many changes. There’s a cute romance as well, but I love the fact that it didn’t end up being the main part of this story.
“I always thought you deserved to know,” she says. “That people change. That love and life are fluid. That even your heroes can make choices that fall into shades of gray.”
All in all, When You Were Everything is an amazing book. I’m normally someone that loves when things get settled and everything is happily ever after, but life isn’t always like that and this book balances that aspect very well. I’ll definitely be reading more by this author in the future!
When You Were Everything was definitely painful to read at times, but I really think this book is important. Unfortunately friendships aren’t always forever. Reading this really makes me want to read more books where friendship is a big theme. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments!