FICTION

When You Were Everything

Delacorte. Mar. 2020. 400p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524715915.
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Gr 9 Up–Cleo met Layla in middle school shortly after losing her beloved grandmother. Her first memories of Layla are interlaced with a favorite song, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” and the same song plays when she realizes that their friendship is gone. References to jazz and literature are sprinkled liberally throughout the story. The themes of betrayal in Macbeth are woven into the dual time lines of then and now, reflecting story events. Layla was Cleo’s everything, but the friendship has caved. They both say and do things that hurt each other. Now, they are forging new friendships and courageous first endeavors without each other. Change is a terrifying thing, but Woodfolk tackles it honestly. Cleo and Layla are flawed, but both have heartfelt moments that keep them both likable despite the horrible things they do to each other.
VERDICT Teens need to learn empathy and recognize the effects of thoughtless words or actions on their peers, making this novel all the more important. Those who enjoy Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, or Brandy Colbert’s Little & Lion should enjoy this novel.

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