Cover Image: When We Were Friends

When We Were Friends

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Member Reviews

DNF. Unfortunately, this was a book I started multiple times but could just not get into. I appreciate having the opportunity to read this book, it was just not a good fit for me as a reader. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my gifted review copy.
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I will be withholding my review until Harper gives their Harper Collins union workers a fair contract. Thank you again for the copy.
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Wow, this one was intense. Trigger warnings for suicidal ideation, self harm, alcohol/drug use, sexual assault, etc. Do not go into this book lightly.

When We Were Friends follows Fern and Jessica, bouncing back and forth in time between their teenage years up until a major fallout, and their early 30s when they reunite. Upon meeting, the two girls are immediately drawn to one another and form a very intimate friendship, but Fern often struggles with feelings of intense depression and inadequacy when standing next to gorgeous and seemingly perfect Jessica. These feelings fester over the years, and petty jealousies evolve into major arguments. 

This part of the novel felt painfully relatable. As a former insecure teen with a lot of internalized misogyny, I really felt for both Fern and Jessica. This book really highlights the insane pressures of being a teenage girl in a society that objectifies and hypersexualizes female bodies. There are several scenes where these young women are basically sexually assaulted, but it's seen as normal, funny, or even complimentary because it means they were "chosen" and therefore seen as valuable by their male friends. The behavior that was normalized within their friend group was really messed up, and frankly, very difficult to read about. 

The sections of the novel that follows adult Fern and Jessica was painful to read about for other reasons. I often found myself cringing at their behavior, since they no longer had the excuse of being teenagers, but reuniting brought their mutual trauma to light in an extremely harsh way. Fern, in particular, starts to spiral and regress in Jessica's presence, and I found it incredibly hard to be in her head. I don't think this part was bad by any means, in fact I think Holly Bourne does a wonderful job analyzing and picking apart the complexities of female friendships, but it is not a light read by any means.

I honestly feel like I'm not doing enough service for this book in my review. Bourne tackles several very nuanced issues in an expert manner, and navigates potentially prickly topics with a lot of empathy. I was initially worried this book was going to pit these two friends against one another in a petty or catty way, but I think the situation was handled with a lot of grace, and I was happy with where both characters ended up.
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🍹Book Review🍷
When We Were Friends 
By: Holly Bourne
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars

There were honestly times that I wanted to throw my phone reading this book. It's a story about friendship, deceit, backstabbing, maturity, guilt, jealousy, insecurity, and all of those tough, heart wrenching experiences of growing up as a young girl. 

Fern is enjoying her adult life, living with her boyfriend (hopefully soon to be fiance), Ben. Her ex-best friend from high school, Jessica, has made a surprising appearance after having not seen or spoken to her in over ten years. 

Fern and Jessica experienced many life-altering lessons as teenagers, some good and some extremely difficult. When Jessica betrays Fern's friendship years ago she cuts her out of her life for good. Now Jessica is back wanting to reestablish their friendship. Can Fern trust her again or is Jessica the same selfish girl from her past? This book was so frustrating at times because it appears that Jessica is just there to stir up trouble again. But, that may not be the case! 

Thank you to @netgalley
@harlequintradepublishing for this gifted ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Female friendships can be rewarding. Oh, but they can also kill you inside. Fern and Jessica were besties in high school and college until Jessica does something that Fern just can't forgive. Fast forward to early 30's and suddenly Jessica is back, divorced and ready to resume her friendship with Fern. I think anyone who has ever had a friend that you both admire and find a little intimidating can relate.
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A terrific and painfully satirical novel focusing on a friendship between two women that go through a mountain of upheavals and yet seem to persevere.
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Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of When We Were Friends by Holly Bourne.

Holy cow, I loved this book!  I am such a fan of love stories (not romance stories!) between girlfriends.  I feel like they are usually so rich and poignant and gosh dang relatable.

When the Jessica appears at one of Fern's book events, Fern runs the gambit of emotions.  Stunning Jessica, Fern's childhood best friend, who she stopped talking to in college, is standing in front of her.  And even though she has conflicting emotions, Fern's overall feeling it to embrace her and invite her back into her life.  But through flashbacks we learn why Fern cut her off, and we can't help but wonder if reuniting is the best thing for her.

This was such a rich story, full of nuance, compassion, and hard earned lessons.  I loved how messy and complex it was, while also offering a reminder of how important communication and empathy is.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more of Bourne's work.
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Who wouldn’t pick up this book based on the cover alone? Truly it is so gorgeous. But the writing inside is just as good! As someone whose life has been often defined by the complexities of friendship, I really enjoyed this narrative of how friendship evolves over time. This book is honest and relatable, and a deeply feminist anthem.
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I found this to be a compelling story that was both insightful and uncomfortable. Holly Bourne did a great job of describing the complexity of a female friendship and how it developed and changed from the teen years, through college and into adulthood. The story of Fern and Jessica, their jealousy, insecurities and desperation to fit in will surely hit home with many women.
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Fern and Jessica were friends in high school but they didn't keep in touch. When Fern reconnects with her in her thirties, she finds that all insecurities are far from gone. Will their newfound friendship survive their bagages?

This was so very interesting. I could not put it down and couldn't understand what made it so addictive. Like for a lot of this, very few happens, and yet, I was captivated. I cannot explain it.
I think I just love the way the story was told with the flashbacks of their friendships as kids. Also, it threw me off at times considering how Fern would react to things and it was a bit frustrating. But also, that made it even more captivating. The whole book was as infuriating as it was captivating tbh.
I didn't see a lot of things coming, so many twists worked on me and it was all so impactful. The only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars is that I couldn't fully connect with Fern and I couldn't fully understand her motivations.
But, overall, this was a percutant read that will stay with me for quite a while.
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This would be a brilliant book club pick.  This character-driven story is about Fern's unhealthy friendship with Jessica.  They were best friends as teenagers until a betrayal led to their split.  Jessica reappears in Fern's life  years later to try to reinstate their friendship.  I anxiously read through this, both to find out what happened in their teenage years, and what will happen now that they are in their early 30s.  The book explores the intensity of female teen friendships with the jealousy and insecurities that can sneak into these friendships.  I think everyone can think back on teenage friendships and relate to some of what Fern felt.  The novel also uncomfortably highlights how boys/men treat females and how important male attention is to women, even when it is negative attention or the males are unworthy.
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Fern and Jess were friends as teens, had a falling out, and then meet again in their early teens.

I really didn’t like Fern, the character who’s perspective this book is told. She’s whiny and self-centered. It made it difficult to get through this one.

Despite this, I did enjoy the author’s witty writing, and will be giving her future work a chance.
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This is a fantastic story of female friendships and all of the emotions, dark and light, that come along with it. I loved how real it felt and there were parts of the story that I recognized from my own relationships. Relatable, beautifully written and unforgettable characters make this a must read and i especially enjoyed the audiobook narrated perfectly by Heather Long.
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2.5 stars

This just wasn’t for me. I didn’t understand Jessica and Fern’s friendship even after the explanation. I thought it would have benefitted us to see both their POVS of the friendship because even towards the end, I just did not understand Jessica, nor did I like her, I was super frustrated with her character the whole entire time — but I understand it is quite literally suppose to be that way, and that is how the book unfolds. The ending just seemed off to me as well.
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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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