The novel When You Were Everything by Black American author Ashley Woodfolk is a must-read as it perfectly encapsulates the grueling reality of losing a friend. Friendship breakups can be just as, if not more heartbreaking than one in a romantic relationship. Cleo is left in shambles after she and her best friend Layla decide to no longer be friends and you really feel it with her. Ashley Woodfolk does a great job at portraying the raw emotions that you feel can’t be put into words while experiencing this. You’ll find yourself wanting to laugh, cry and yell, putting yourself in Cleo’s shoes. Something I found really interesting is how both characters are very well written and neither Cleo nor Layla are completely in the wrong. You’ll find yourself relating to different aspects of each character and not knowing who to cheer for at times despite the book being written from Cleo’s perspective. This novel is also written alternating in the timelines “Then” and “Now” creating suspense between every chapter. You see the lead up to the fallout being the “Then” and then the aftermath being the “Now.” Unlike other novels where you’re informed of what has happened at the beginning, you really don't know the cause of Cleo and Layla’s fallout until the novel is almost over. This novel will leave you reevaluating how you treat your friends and will make you more aware of how you can improve upon yourself and your relationships.
This book review was part of the Battle of the Books competition.
When You Were Everything is available at the Nepean High School library.