‘We Used to Be Friends’ – Amy Spalding

The title pulls no punches. This is all about the break-up of all break-ups, and though it’s upsetting on occasion I couldn’t help but warm to both James and Kat.
James and Kat were paired together in kindergarten and have been best friends since. Our story opens with them about to go to college, and things are no longer looking as rosy as they were.

The premise itself is quite straightforward. Two friends are developing and their relationship is shifting. They’re dealing with family issues, evolving relationships and the movement into adulthood. So, what’s special about this?

For me, it comes down to the innovative structure of the novel. We get alternating viewpoints, which allow us to see both perspectives, and then there’s the construction of those views. James’s story begins with her about to start college, reflecting on the last year and examining just how her relationship with her best friend came to such a place. Kate’s story opens at the beginning of senior year, full of promise and excitement as she begins a new relationship and slowly comes to learn some of her flaws.

Both characters were flawed. Kat was highly dramatic and self-obsessed, while James was reticent to discuss emotions never mind deal with them. Cutting between time/situation lent a fascinating air to this. We could see how it would end up, and the signs were obvious but both seemed unable to do anything to salvage it.

Though I enjoyed the style of telling, and grew to feel some compassion for both characters, I’m not entirely sure what the message of this book is. Relationships change. Sometimes people aren’t what you thought. Too much introspection is a bad thing. Too much self-obsession is a bad thing.

I’m grateful to NetGalley for granting me access to this in exchange for my thoughts. This might be one to return to upon publication (scheduled for January 2020).