Published by Delacorte Press on March 10, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Format: Hardcover (400 pages)
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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.
When You Were Everything is one of those books where I felt like I was in it. I remember so well having a falling out with my best friend in high school. It never got as bad as what Cleo and Layla go through, but I knew these feels very well. Cleo and Layla have been inseparable for years, and now they’re simply not. Of course, it’s not that simple, and Cleo slowly reveals it to us as she tries to move on without her best friend.
When You Were Everything alternates between “then” and “now.” “Then” is when Cleo and Layla were still best friends, but things start changing. Layla falls in with a group of popular girls who don’t like Cleo, and Cleo doesn’t fit in with them. This is where I was. I was left behind for a better group, because I just didn’t fit. Cleo and I tried at first for our friend’s sake, but ultimately, it doesn’t work. After that, these girls just keep one-upping each other in how they can make the other hurt. It was painful to read. Friendships change and dissolve, but it doesn’t have to get ugly like this. It was just one thing after another until there was no coming back.
The toxicity of Cleo and Layla’s relationship starts leaking into every aspect of Cleo’s life. It’s like she’s consumed with getting back at Layla while also trying to erase their history. She pushes away possible new friends. She’s distancing from her parents–although, there’s more problems going on at home as well. She’s even skipping school, despite being a star pupil. She quickly becomes someone she doesn’t recognize as she behaves as badly, or even worse, than Layla’s catty new friends.
I found When You Were Everything extremely relatable and compelling. It was nice to read about a friendship rather than a romantic relationship, especially one that isn’t sunshine and rainbows. Friendships end all the time for so many reasons. Are they all this messy? No, but I still believed everything that these girls said to each other on their way down.