Morning mortals! Those loyal readers of my blog may recognise this as the fulfillment of a Want to Read Wednesday wish I made a few weeks ago. I actually got this book as a ‘wish granted’ on Netgalley which had never happened to me before…exciting! This is another one of those ‘Judith reads YA contemporary because she is weak and strays from her fantasy ideals for shiny things’ times. I’ve been a fan of Gaby and Allison’s Youtube channel Just Between Us for a long time now so I was thrilled to get to read their work. Let’s see how it went!
Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)
We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?
So yes, this is a series of texts and emails put into a book form. Which is a trend in books which may have been popularised by books such as Illuminae but I have seen it elsewhere. I don’t mind it as a format so long as the formatting is clear and coherent (unless it is deliberately not so, as in Illuminae). It can mean that you miss out on some content but in this book I think that was used to the advantage of the plot. You very much experience the plot through the filtered nature of personal emails and texts, painting lives to be more or less dramatic than they actually are, if that makes any sense?
As I expected, this book is very much written to be similar to the characters Gaby and Allison portray/are on their Youtube channel (write what you know!) which is in many ways a great thing, because it means you’re getting an own voices story about living with mental illness and also about being a queer woman. The disadvantage is that those characters are intentionally very intense which can make them a little unbelievable when written down.
There are times in this book where I felt quite uncomfortable. Often when Ava questions Gen about something to do with sexuality, gender and similar she is brushed off, Gen can get quite angry at Ava in a way which seems unreasonable to the reader. The problem with this is that Gen is right, it isn’t her job to educate Ava, but I think some readers have found this a little abrasive? I would argue that this isn’t writing a bad character, it’s more that the issues Gen is having which cause her to react so aggressively to Ava are not brought into the foreground enough. I think that readers of YA expected Gen to have the same level of emotional experience as Ava does and you get a little disappointed when she never seems to back down or apologise as fully as you expect her to. But, if I’m honest, I don’t think she needed to apologise for more than perhaps a slight overreaction.
This isn’t the happy teen-movie coming-of-age book where two girls go through a life changing transformation at college that the cover and blurb might suggest. I don’t think that makes it a bad book. I think it makes it a real world story of two very different people working out how their friendship evolves and changes while they figure out who they are.
Will it be everyone’s cup of tea? No. I can’t say it was 100% my cup of tea. There are a lot of things I would change if I had a genie (or a job as a book editor…dreams) but if you’ve ever watched any JBU and you’re willing to delve a little into what was really driving the creation of this book I think you’ll have a good time.
My rating: 3/5 stars (I liked it, I really did, 3 stars means I liked it)
By the way, I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Have you read this? Ever watched JBU? Let me know in the comments below!