Cover Image: When We Were Friends

When We Were Friends

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Member Reviews

Humorous, heartfelt, and hopeful. When We Were Friends is a recommended purchase for collections where WF is popular.
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Fern and Jessica were bffs until they weren't -and the reason behind their split slowly spools out. Fern's struggled with her mental health since she was a teen and now, at 31, she's got things mostly under control.  And then Jessica reappears in her life, bringing back both good memories and her anxiety.  This swings between their teen years and the present, when they are renewing their relationship.  Things have changed for both of them-Fern lives with Ben (great guy) and Jessica is mom to a gorgeous little girl-but Fern remains guarded.  Much of their trouble over the years is because of guys, some of whom are horrible (more than horrible).  If I have a quibble, it's that too much time is spent on their years at university and that the novel is just a tad too long for the payoff.  That said, Bourne is a good storyteller and she's especially adept with portraits of young women (I'll never look at fairy wings the same way).  I appreciated the sensitive incorporation of Fern's challenges.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  A good read.
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This book takes a close look at coming-of-age in the early 2000's, depression and anxiety, the complexities of female friendship and more. I really LOVED it. It was darkly funny, evocative and hopeful. 
I think I particularly connected with it because the main character has a best friend that she always felt overshadowed by and then they stop being friends. I had a similar situation in my formative years, though I was younger than Fern was when I was going through it. Many of my deepest insecurities can be traced back to that friend-breakup. So... yeah. I  felt a lot of feelings while reading this book. 

As I have started writing reviews over the past year, I realized that the coming-of-age trope is one of my favorites!
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I really didn't know what I was expecting to read when I got an early copy of this book.  I have never read Holly Bourne before. She is a gifted writer.  She wrote the story in such a way that I saw exactly what the main character saw and when everything gets flipped on the main character, it got flipped on me as well forcing me to confront well, all of it.  I was really impressed with her ability to do that.  Overall, it was a hard book to read as literally everyone in it needs therapy but overall, it was worth the read.
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4.5 ⭐️

Synopsis: As teenagers, Fern and Jessica are instant best friends. In light of their different personalities, they continue to show up for one another during important, sometimes painful, moments. However, something happened later in life that has abolished their friendship and resulted in Fern being unable to forgive Jessica. Ten years later, Jessica unexpectedly re-enters Fern’s life. A lot of things have changed between them, and yet there are still glimmers of the past. Can they revert back to being best friends again? Or will their shared history inevitably repeat itself? 

Thoughts: This book was entertaining and overall enjoyable. The past/present POVs worked quite well, and many of Fern’s feelings and insecurities were all too relatable. While depicted in extreme levels, I think most women would resonate with Fern’s desires to be considered attractive and chosen over her friends. However, it was really the last 15% that sold me and improve the rating from 4 stars to 4.5. The ending is impactful and memorable, and I love what Bourne did. Note: the audiobook is awesome. Heather Long did an excellent job narrating.

Read if you like: 
-Sally Rooney books, flawed characters 
-Stories about female friendships
-Feminist reads 
-Coming of age stories 
 
Thank you to Mira books & Harper Audio for my ARC/ALC

TW: suicide, self harm, sexual assault
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When We Were Friends is a coming of age story that explores the complexities of female friendship from the late teenage years through early adulthood. It follows Fern, who in the present day is 31, and examines her friendship with her best friend Jessica, who after many years, makes a reappearance in her life. 

This book surprised me in all the right ways, and it wasn’t until the last third of the book where I truly appreciated Holly Bourne’s writing and the message she was sending. Looking back now, there was so much that I enjoyed. The writing was real and related. Bourne’s discussions about feminism were integrated seamlessly throughout the book and triggering topics were handled maturely. I also loved how this was told by only Fern’s perspective and not Jessica’s, as it allowed the reader to connect with Fern and understand where her insecurities and self-doubts were coming from. I highly reccomend listening to the audiobook!!

Read if you like:
-Coming of age stories
-Exploring the complexities of female friendship 
-England setting 
-Sally Rooney books 

Thank you HTP and HarperAudio for the ARC and ALC! Pub date 9/27.
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This was a bit too predictable for me, and the ending did not feel right. Fern and Jessica did not have a friendship, just a sick mind of codependency that hurt both of them. Ferns parents should have been more upfront with her as an adult when Jessica came back into her life. I’m not sure why they want to be around each other. Heather was the best and most natural character in the book.
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This book was intriguing from the start. Jessica and Fern have not spoken in years after a falling out, until one day Jessica reappears after 10 years of no contact, Jessica and Fern try to rekindle their friendship, but so much damage was done in the teen years . 

I really liked the dual timelines and alternate POV's. I really enjoyed how Bourne interjected the past and present. events. The teen years are hard enough, but Bourne did a phenomenal job intertwining why/how things happened. 

Is the friendship worth saving? Read to find out!
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I was interested in this novel and unfortunately had to stop a short way in due to the references of self harm/suicide. Maybe it wasn’t going to play a major role in the story but it did seem super relevant to the plot and that is unfortunately a very strong trigger that I cannot read about. The writing seemed strong and I was curious about what happened to this friendship. Maybe I’ll be able to go back to it some day.
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https://www.tiktok.com/@bettysbooklist/video/7132229877868039467?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&lang=en
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The concept of this book really intrigued me but wow was it trying to do so very much. The drug use, the suicidal ideation, the self-loathing. I wish it had been done more delicately. I think this book would’ve really benefited by being dual POV; we end up rooting for Fern, and then the end makes us think we were wrong to do that. I didn’t know enough about Jessica’s backstory, other than being poor, to sympathize with the fact that regardless of being drunk, she was a shitty self-centered friend. I’ve had to cut countless bad friends out of my life and the ending felt unsatisfying for me because I think both of these characters would’ve benefitted from cutting their losses. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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4.5/5
Yet another triumph under Holly Bourne's belt. I picked this up in the airport at the start of my holiday and I was enthralled from page one. I knew Bourne had never disappointed in the past and was likely to offer just what I needed most - something witty and poignant enough to keep my sleep deprived self awake, but fun and easy to consume enough to pull me in even before my coffee kicked in. While I did get just what I'd been looking for, I think I'd forgotten just how addictive Holly's storytelling is - to say I was dying for a moment off to steal a glance at my kindle whenever possible simply to get more of this story and these characters would be an understatement. 
What this novel does best is make you sway along with its protagonist and plot. Like Fern, you get drawn in by Jessica's glamour and allure even when knowing something cataclysmic must have happened between the two in the past to have caused a rift. So your heart is speeding by as you keep turning pages between their past and present selves, along for the ride, yet eager to see the ending of this relationship both the first (and potentially second) time around. You as a reader don't quite realise how much viewing  the story from Fern's perspective may have led you a certain way until you are forced to confront your own biases. 
Bourne offers an incisive analysis of the complex, and often complicated, allconsuming female bonds we form, and offers a painfully raw potrayal of the unique and intense experience of having a best friend (and growing up) as a teenage girl. Most specifically, this book feels of a time, an anthem for a generation of women coming of age in the early 2000s and the way this particular socio-cultural climate was bound to taint their connection through its insidious existence. 
This novel is a love letter and tender hug for this particular generation, and a prayer for ones to come, comforting a generation of women and hoping for better for the next.
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An evocative and exciting exploration of an intense female friendship that spans for more than a decade. Fern and Jessica are best friends -- but for the entirety of their friendship, Fern harbors jealousy toward Jessica that ultimately leads toward a falling out between them. This novel explores the events that lead up to this falling out, as well as what happens when the two of them rekindle their friendship over a decade later. I was holding my breath for much of the story; so many of the fears and situations these women were held by resonated deeply with me.
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Another novel about a female friendship, another 5-star read.

When We Were Friends would make a marvelous companion to Idol. While they explore different themes, they are about those intense female friendships that I can't get enough of, it seems.

Fern and Jessica had a falling out in their teen years. Now, in their thirties, they come together again and try to rekindle their friendship. The story is told in alternating timelines (just like Idol!) and explores the women's dynamic through the years. Can they make it work? Should they make it work after everything they've been through? I still don't know.

There is a ton of juicy stuff to unpack here. Jealousy, insecurity, hookup culture, feminism, victimhood and also pure love. The way women's relationship orbit around and are corrupted by men. I can't even list everything that went into writing this book. I didn't always agree with where Bourne landed with her story, but she is a master of writing about about girls and women. Plus her books are unputdownable.
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"Wondering if his love would ever be something I took for granted, rather than treating it like a finite resource I was scared of squandering too quickly."

Ok I am going to be in the minority on this one.

This is the story of Fern and Jessica who were inseparable best friends for five years during their teenage years before they had a falling out. They haven't talked to each other in ten years when Jessica shows up in Fern's life. The book then alternates between telling their story now and telling their story from back then so we can see what caused the falling out. 

I know many people loved this book and I sat with it for quite some time after I finished it to pinpoint what bothered me about it. Here's what it came down to for me: when Bourne is telling us about their friendship as teenagers, she keeps saying how they were best friends but as a reader, I didn't see any reason why they were. Except Jessica saying she needed Fern. There were no examples of why they meant so much to each other or how they were there for each other. and there are many, many examples to contrary. 

I understand that a lot gets revealed towards the end and we finally get to see how close they were but I felt like until that point, I just had to take the authors word for it. I could see all the ways in which they were toxic for each other but none of the reasons why they were good for each other and that made it really hard for me to root for their friendship. 

I also felt very triggered by how often the teenage girls were drunk and had sex while they were so drunk that they couldn't consent and their "friends" were too busy being jealous instead of helping them out of a situation that was clearly rape. What kind of friendship is that? I understand that was part of the point of the plot but I found it to be so disturbing and so sad that I couldn't understand how people who behave this way could ever really call each other best friends.

I liked the last quarter of the book the most. I liked when they were finally being honest with each other. When they were finally on equal footing. When they finally could see each other's perspectives. And I cared about each of them and their insecurities. But in the end, there was more about the book that bothered me than not.

with gratitude to Harlequin Trade Publishing and netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review
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This book explores the complexities of female friendship. I think we all have a friend like Jessica and a friend like Fern.but we must always remember, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. The book parallels from current day and past, with the chapters leading to the pivotal moment of when they became estranged. I really enjoyed this but I wished this was a bit shorter. Thank you netgalley & the publisher for the ARC, in exchange for an honest review.
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I’ve read most of Holly Bourne’s books, and somehow I still always forget just how heavy their contents are. Her books all have deceptively fun covers and her writing style is very casual, so it’s easy to be deceived by both of those. But every book of hers I’ve read has covered heavy topics that are deeply relevant to the experience of growing up as a woman. This one was no different.

Fern and Jessica were inseparable best friends all throughout high school. They spent hours together every single day and they loved each other wholeheartedly, in spite of how different they were. But Fern was always uncomfortable about Jessica’s looks and the attention she got from boys because of it, and Jessica never hesitated to bask in the attention she gets from men. Over the years this causes tension in their relationship until one day it completely tears them away from each other. Now, 10 years later, their friendship has rekindled. But with their renewed friendship comes painful memories for Fern from the years they were friends as teens. And Fern fears that the issues that once plagued their friendship 10 years ago will repeat themselves all over again. 

This book focused on how the need to be perceived, desired, and loved by men can destroy women’s relationships with both themselves and each other. It was heartbreaking. Fern was so desperate to convince a boy to find her desirable in her teen years, and sometimes felt worthless because she didn’t get nearly as much attention from boys as the other girls she knew did, especially Jessica. If you’re not a woman you may think this sounds ridiculous and dramatic. But we really do live in a world where girls are raised to believe that being desirable to men is absolutely necessary. Fern’s fears and insecurities reflect the reality of so many young girls’ lives. I just wanted to grab her shoulders and yell at her that she deserved so much more than that. That she deserved better than a few minutes of attention from boys who completely lost interest in her because she could never pretend to be the “cool,” “chill” girl for them. So much of her youth was spent worrying about pleasing the boys in her life, and she never felt like she could be good enough. My heart breaks for her, the girls I knew in my adolescence who went through the same thing, and the teen girls of today who are no doubt going through the same thing as well. 

Jessica threw all of her own wants aside to be desired by boys, and she always succeeded. She could be anything boys wanted her to be. Jessica resigned herself to a life as a “cool” hot girl, and although she got a lot more attention from boys than Fern did because of that choice, she was imprisoned by a life that revolved around being attractive to boys just like Fern was. She laughed at disgusting jokes. She pretended like the boys making gross comments about her was okay because she was a girl who could “take a joke.” She was “effortlessly” hot. She did anything any boy wanted her to in bed. She had what Fern wanted, but she was never happy. My heart also breaks for Jessica, and for every other teen girl who has gone through a similar thing.

And the most painful thing of all was watching how badly a pure, loving friendship was soiled all because these two girls lived in a world that where they were willing to throw each other aside in order to please men. It’s upsetting to watch how they constantly judged and compared themselves each other and other women because of it.

All of this is hurts because as tragic as it sounds, I get all of it. If you’ve lived a life as a woman you completely get it. Holly Bourne is amazing at depicting women’s friendships and women’s problems in all of her books. She just gets it. And I really hate that all of us have had to live through these experiences. Even if you’ve never related to these two women, you’ve definitely always known girls and women who went through it, and you’ve seen how terribly it can make them feel about themselves. You’ve seen how the burden of being desirable to men can whittle away at the beauty of womanhood. 

Sure the problems between Fern and Jessica had always stemmed from desirability to men, but When We Were Friends isn’t about that in the end. It’s about how they love each other enough that they work very hard to build a safe space for their friendship to thrive, in which the opinions of men don’t matter. It’s about all the moments Fern describes when she and her girl friends are completely joyous, free, and away from the men in their lives. Like when she and her high school friends all crammed into a small room to watch Aladdin at a house party and braid each other’s hair. And when she and Jessica spent an entire day at a musical festival talking and laughing and being unapologetically themselves.  

My biggest complaint about this book is that the big event it was building up to in the present day timeline was extremely basic, predictable, and overdone in so many other books, movies, and shows. I can ignore it because it really wasn’t relevant to the main point of the book, but I really really didn’t like it. I also didn’t like having to read the story from the perspective of a character who’s so insecure. I know that that characterization was intentional, of course, but it’s exhausting having to be in the mind of someone so full of self loathing.

I definitely recommend this if the concept sounds good to you.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the Kindle ARC. When We Were Friends is the story of Jess and Fern, two girls who become friends in school, until a falling out separates them for years. Jess shows up unexpectantly at a book signing event that Fern is helping promote. Fern is very uneasy about resuming a friendship with Jess but let's her better judgement overcome that feeling. Fern is unsure about letting Jess around her live-in boyfriend, as part of Jess's betrayal involved another of Fern's boyfriend years ago. The story accurately portrays old friendship, uneasy friendships and real-life situations in which  young girls and young women get involved. When We Were Friends is the first book I've read by Holly Bourne but I will definitely seek out more of her titles.
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An intriguing exploration of the complexity of women's friendship, the fetishization of beauty, and adolescence told from the perspective of Fern, a Mental Health editor of an online site called Gah! Fern is doing great - her career is flourishing, her boyfriend adores her, and she seems on track to accomplish all of her goals. That is, until an encounter with her former best friend, Jessica, leaves her questioning whether everything is about to fall apart. 

Set in the UK, When We Were Friends moves from present day to Fern's teenage years, when she first met Jessica. We get to know more about Fern's formative years that shaped her to the person she is today and about her friendship with Jessica as we wonder what led to their estrangement of over a decade. 

I found Fern to be quite likable, relatable insecurities, and all as she navigates what a relationship with Jessica looks like in adulthood. There is an air of tension and mystery throughout as we find out more about Jessica. Recommended to those looking for a sharp take on women's friendship - one that is full of humor, sadness, jealousy, and hope.

Thank you very much to the publisher for the opportunity to read this ARC via NetGalley.
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What could easily have been another "girl power" story, which is what I feared at the start,  "When We Were Friends" turned out to be quite an entertaining read!  The novel focuses on the highs and lows of female relationships from youth through adulthood; not simply relationships with other females in a friend group, but with both males and females whose interactions shape each others lives for better or for worse.  As the story travels between times, it becomes transparent why each character has become what he/she is.
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