Friday, February 5, 2021

Freeform Friday: A Review of When You Were Everything - Ashley Woodfolk


Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from

My Review: February is Black History Month, and Reading for Sanity is posting reviews featuring Black authors and stories.

Oh, man. This is one of those books that just hits you in the gut. No matter your age, I feel like you can relate to it. It may not apply to you directly in your life right now, but I guarantee you’ll totally understand the pain and sorrow and heartache associated with this story.

Right off, this book is awesome because the characters are so relatable. They’re flawed but also complex. They’re not just enemies and they’re not just perfect, either. One thing I appreciated about Woodfolk’s character development is that although we had a healthy dose of what the main first-person character was thinking, and what she thought of others, we were also very aware that she is not a completely reliable narrator and that is ok. It didn’t taint the story and didn’t make things seem implausible.

I’m sure you can think of someone in high school who was your arch nemesis, and all the feelings associated with that. Part of the awesomeness of this book was that the reader is transported directly back to that time and those feelings. Now I have to admit that I didn’t personally have a falling out with anyone that was as complicated or as dramatic as this, and still, I completely related. The situation was so raw and real that I couldn’t help but feel all the feels as if I were right back in high school with these girls. Yes, it was painful, but Woodfolk does such a great job of creating these painful situations that there is also healing and perspective involved. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. The writing is great, too, and the dialogue is excellent and ads to the story. Woodfolk is super talented and I really enjoyed her writing style and ability to address issues in a straightforward manner.

This book is written in a time hop way, in that you read about what is currently happening, and then the next chapter is a flashback. As the flashbacks move forward, we are eventually brought up to speed and are reading the conclusion of the story in real time. As with many books this story has its own conclusion that does have some “neatly wrapped in a bow” elements with it, but also, I felt like it was realistic and equally satisfying and also heartbreaking because sometimes it just is what it is.

I appreciated the way race was discussed in this book—it was straightforward and thoughtful, and also addressed being biracial and aspects of being Black and all the different backgrounds that can be associated with being Black.

I think this is a great read for teens. Not only does it give perspective on issues that are pertinent to them today, but it is just really relatable and well-written and one of those books that I would consider to be very comforting. It isn’t easy to lose a friend, but it happens and this book is one of those that will be comforting for teens whether or not they have experienced a direct break up or just grow apart from their friends. It really is relatable to everyone.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language and discussion of sex.

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