Book Talk: "When We Were Them" by Laura Taylor Namey | Jan. 2022
Laura Taylor Namey, y'all. I have read two of her books so far and each of them was emotional and gorgeous in its own way. Today I need, like literally need, to talk about When We Were Them, which is a Nov. 2021 release. It's a YA that has somewhat parallel timelines, a present-day thread in which Willa and her best friends are on the outs, and a past-tense timeline in which we see their friendship grow.
The book is steeped in its setting of San Diego, and you can tell Laura is writing from a place of deep love and affection for the city. It comes alive under her pen, and I felt like I was walking the beach, swimming the ocean, trodding the neighborhood streets with Willa, Luz, and Britton.
The true backbone of this novel is the female friendship at its foundation. This girls — their relationships to each other, they're everything. They are each other's rocks, each other's sisters. Their friendship is beautiful and moved me to tears.
In addition, the storyline with Nico was one that I didn't expect but that totally gripped me and carried me along with it.
The other thing to know about this book is that Laura, she doesn't pull her punches. Emotionally speaking, that is. This book deals with some hard topics, like stuff that would leave indelible marks on the teens living through it, but Laura handles it with care and a soft touch and it feels like you can really tell she cares for her characters, yes, but also the young readers who will experience things with them.
You can really feel the love in this book, between the characters but also between author and character, author and reader.
One thing I really adored is the diversity in the characters' interests. You've got an aspiring heart surgeon, a surfer boy, an opera singer...so many different paths their lives will take. This works really well both for characterization and because it sets up a pivotal conflict in the story.
This book is filled with subplots, something I truly adore. Reading it and seeing the way Laura expertly manipulated the various threads into something beautiful was an experience akin to watching a master weaver produce a glorious tapestry, I'm sure. I can't wait to have a hardcover copy and reread it and really soak in everything from the gorgeous prose to the heartbreak to the ultimate triumph.
I did receive a copy of this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher for that, as reading this book was a gift I will forever cherish.
And if you, too, would like this book: have a handy buy link!