Sometimes, the worst heartbreak is losing a friend. After years of doing everything with your best friend, unable to imagine any future plans without them, you’re suddenly apart. We Used To Be Friends by Amy Spalding is about exactly that: James and Kat are lifelong best friends at the beginning of their senior year, but one year later, they won’t even talk to each other anymore.
Right off the bat, We Used To Be Friends throws you into the drama as it starts with the ending from James’ perspective. The two friends’ stories are told in alternating chapters, with Kat’s story going forwards, and James’ going backwards. The structure works well and Amy Spalding uses it to essentially tell the same story twice without it getting boring. In fact, the point where you start reading about events for the second time is where it gets really interesting.
The reason the structure works so well is because James and Kat are fundamentally different people. They’ve been best friends since kindergarten, and haven’t had any major scuffles since, but in senior year, they grow apart. James and Kat mean well for each other, but they have different ways of communicating, and they have different expectations of each other, which leads to conflict upon conflict until their friendship blows up in the end.
Kat tells James everything, James thinks Kat is oversharing. Kat expects James to tell her everything, and James expects Kat to ask. And because they never talk about these expectations until it’s too late, the ending is inevitable, and all the more tragic.
However, even though they’re different people, what’s happening to them is very similar. James and Kat both break up with their boyfriends for completely different reasons, both of them struggle with their futures, and both of them have to watch their parents find new love. The book gains a lot more depth by showing these parallels, and it shows just how different James and Kat really are.
Kat realizes very early on that she is bisexual, falling in love with Quinn, someone she barely even knew before senior year, and it’s important that the book never makes it feel like her bisexuality is the reason for her fallout with James. This is not that kind of story.
Though Quinn is definitely a reason for all the tension, it’s clear that James does not resent Kat for her newfound sexuality. Neither Kat nor James are completely to blame, both of them actively pushing the other away over the course of the book.
Amy Spalding’s We Used To Be Friends is a tragic book, even if it’s fun along the way. Kat and James are both changed at the end of the year, and they’re left in a kind of reversal; James was always so sure about her future but is now left with questions, and Kat now feels secure in her decisions, even if she doesn’t quite have a plan.
The structure plays with how they become more similar and different at the same time, until they stop being friends. Sadly, that happens sometimes, but it’s important to know that life goes on anyway.