When We Were – Alexandra Diaz
I hate getting a book to review and then not getting along with said book. I don’t like giving bad reviews and I hate criticising people’s work, I know how much time and energy goes into writing a story, but I read this in exchange for an honest review, so here it goes. Just know that these are my opinions and my opinions alone and that in no way indicates that this is a bad book, mmmkay? Right then, let’s crack on.
When a rumor starts circulating that Tara’s boyfriend Brent has been sleeping with one of the guy cheerleaders, the innuendo doesn’t just hurt Tara. It marks the beginning of the end for an inseparable trio of friends. Tara’s training for a marathon, but also running from her fear of abandonment after being deserted by her father. Whitney Blaire seems to have everything, but an empty mansion and absentee parents leave this beauty to look for meaning in all the wrong places. And Pinkie has a compulsive need to mother everyone to make up for the mom she’s never stopped missing. This friendship that promised to last forever is starting to break under the pressure of the girls’ differences.
And then new-girl Riley arrives in school with her long black hair, athletic body, and her blasé attitude, and suddenly Tara starts to feel things she’s never felt before for a girl–and to reassess her feelings about Brent and what he may/may not have done. Is Tara gay–or does she just love Riley? And can her deepest friendships survive when all of the rules have changed?
So, before I begin, you all should know that for some reason this book is also called Of All The Stupid Things, which is apparently the only recognisable title on goodreads. Maybe its a reprint or just a different title for the UK, either way, this book has two titles. Just so you know.
Now, I picked this book because it is being marketed as an LGBTQA+ novel and ya’ll know I love my LGBTQA+ novels. While it does have LGBTQA+ themes, at its core, this is a book about a friendship with some major cracks in it, which on the one hand is kind of refreshing, but on the other was sort of annoying because we never really get a good grasp of the LGBTQA+ relationship.
Anyway, the review.
My first problem was that I really didn’t care for any of the characters, the three best friends share the narration, which gives us a good insight on what is going on with each of them to an extent and really highlights the precarious state of their friendship, but I didn’t really notice an awful lot of difference in their voices. I also didn’t really care for any of them. Our first chapter is told through the eyes of Tara and from her narration, I couldn’t tell you a thing about her boyfriend, Brent, other than she thinks he’s really hot, and when Whitney and Pinkie were introduced, I didn’t even twig that these people were her best friends until about a quarter of the way through when they were all eating lunch together. The introduction just didn’t scream best friend to me, it screamed, “oh god, there are two people from my year, guess I better be civil, oh they’re telling me this horrible thing about my boyfriend. Ok.” Also, the boyfriend thing. Tara literally hears a rumour about him and then breaks up with him without giving him time to explain or talk it through and apart from a blurry photograph and the word of her so called best friend, there isn’t an awful lot of concrete proof that he’s done anything adulterous at that point. Idk, maybe I’m getting old, but if he were my boyfriend, I’d probably have wanted to hear some kind of explanation from him. Then again, if he were my boyfriend, I would probably be able to tell you a little more about him other than the fact that he’s pleasant to look at. Like, I don’t know, whether he is smart or funny or likes cartoons. That sort of thing. So yeah, I didn’t like Tara. I also didn’t really empathise with Pinkie or Whitney either, though out of the three, I did enjoy Pinkie’s narration the best. I just didn’t believe these guys were ever friends, they didn’t act like friends, they didn’t even seem to care about each other all that much and the way that Whitney and Pinkie turn on Tara when Riley arrives, well. If that’s how they treat their friends, I hate to see how they treat their enemies. One thing this book does do well is show that childhood friends aren’t necessarily the people you’re going to grow old with, it shows that as you mature, you change, you aren’t the same at seven as you are at seventeen and if you don’t know who you are, how are your friends supposed to know? As much as I hated the characters and I didn’t get the vibe of friendship, this plot line was one that I did enjoy reading and could fully get behind.
Another problem I had with the book was that the narrative structure was a bit staccato for my taste. I think if I empathised with the characters and situations a bit more, it probably would have worked well for dramatic effect, but it was all a bit lost on me and I found it made the pacing a bit difficult to get my head around. Actually, as I think about it to write this review, the second half of this book, after the introduction of Riley reminds me a lot of Keeping You A Secret, that had very similar themes. I think one thing that majorly annoyed me about that book, and this one actually, is the fact that a girl character with a history of being into guys, meets a girl they fancy and suddenly they’re gay. BI ERASURE IS A BIG PROBLEM GUYS, don’t invalidate their previous relationships and don’t just assume that if someone fancies someone else of the same gender they’re automatically gay. That’s not how sexuality works. Rant over. Sorry, normal service is being resumed.
Anyway, I know this is not a terrible book because there are many stellar reviews over on goodreads, I just don’t think it was for me. Maybe I am too old to appreciate it, who knows. All I do know is that although an interesting story, I didn’t like the way it was executed, the book and the story has a lot of potential and having Tara be bisexual, rather than just writing off her relationship with Brent, would have added an interesting dynamic. Like I said at the beginning, I hate giving negative reviews and I just want to reiterate, these are just my opinions and my opinions does not mean this is a bad book. If you liked Keeping You a Secret and you’re under the age of eighteen, you’ll probably really enjoy this as a piece of high school drama with an LGBTQA+ theme. It just wasn’t for me. Sorry.