I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.When We Were by Alexandra Diaz
on September 29 2015
Genres: LGBT, Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
No one messes with Whitney Blaire or her friends, which is why she can’t help but let it slip that someone spotted Tara’s boyfriend making out with one of the guy cheerleaders.
Even after spending hours training for her marathon, down-to-earth Tara can’t outrun the rumors about the boyfriend she thought was perfect. Pinkie, the rock and “Big Sister” of their inseparable group, just wants things to stay exactly the way they are…but that’s not possible when new-girl Riley arrives in school and changes everything.
Suddenly Tara starts to feel things she’s never felt before—for anyone—while Whitney Blaire tries to convince her that this new girl is Trouble. Meanwhile, Pinkie’s world begins to crumble as she begins to suspect that the friends she depends on are not the girls she thought she knew.
Can friendship survive when all the rules are broken?
I have a lot to thank this book for. I have been going through a major reading slump (again) this summer and I have barely felt like reading (which is not so great when you run a book blog). Thankfully, I was approached to review this books as part of Paper Lantern Lit’s Blog Tour. I am happy to say I enjoyed it a lot!
When We Were by Alexandra Diaz is about three teenage friends who are trying to navigate the cesspool that is high school (I still have scars, clearly). These three girls are very different. Tara is sporty and super health-conscious. Whitney Blaire (who is bafflingly referred to by her full name by everyone) is something of a mean girl who conversely genuinely cares about her friends. Pinkie is the mother-hen. The worrier and perhaps the nicest of the three (albeit a touch naive or, if I’m being honest, a little bit on the dim side).
The story is told from the point of view of all the girls which was an interesting approach but did leave me a little bit cold on the characters. I never really felt fully connected to them as the POV shifted so often.
Tara was perhaps the most relatable main character. She certainly had the most interesting story. She is in a relationship with one of the most popular guys in school but after hearing an unsettling rumour that he is hooking up with one of the (male) cheerleaders on the side, she finds herself drawn to the new girl in school.
Tara is confused by her strong feelings for Riley. She had never considered herself to be attracted to girls before and it takes her completely by surprise. I really enjoyed reading about the exploration of their growing relationship. In fact, I was often disappointed when the focus would shift to either Pinkie or Whitney Blaire.
Whitney Blaire could have been the archetypal mean girl but she ended up being more complicated than that. Don’t get me wrong, she could be a complete bitch (her reaction to Riley proves that) but she usually had a reason for acting in this way, even if it was not overly apparent at first. As much as I liked Tara, I feel that Whitney Blaire had the potential to be the most interesting character but this wasn’t fully realized in the time spent in her POV.
Pinkie was the character I least connected with. Her fluttering about and worrying personality was probably more like my own nature than the other characters but she was just a little bit too much at times. Her crush on Nash (her student advisor) was a bit cringe-worthy to read as she was just so full-on and he was clearly just stringing her along.
I was also a bit disconcerted by how blithely homophobic Pinkie was. I suppose that depiction was fairly realistic but I really didn’t expect it from her character given how caring she was. I thought she would be way more open-minded.
I also had some trouble with how much slut-shaming and name-calling there was in this book but unfortunately that is a pretty realistic depiction about how teenagers can act with each other. I dislike it but it is a part of the culture that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
Overall though, I really rather enjoyed this book. The writing was fresh and witty. The characters all had believable arcs that showed personal growth by the end of the book and it was just a darn entertaining read. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any new output from Alexandra Diaz.
About the author
Alexandra Diaz grew up bilingual in Puerto Rico and various U.S. states. Thanks to an over-active imagination, she’s always loved creating stories and “what-if” scenarios.
She got her MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University in Bath, England and is the author of five young adult and middle grade novels.
When she is not writing, she gets paid to walk dogs, teach creative writing, web edit, and parade in costume on stilts; sadly, other things she enjoys—traveling, eating ice cream, and circus aerials—don’t pay. Yet.