cover image When You Were Everything

When You Were Everything

Ashley Woodfolk. Delacorte, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5247-1591-5

Ever since she and her best friend stopped speaking, Cleo has felt “haunted” by the past. Things started going wrong sophomore year, when Layla, who stutters except when she’s singing, auditioned for chorus. The glossy girls in chorus don’t think much of dreamy, Shakespeare-loving, decidedly casual Cleo, and as the girls grow apart, they both behave badly, exchanging harsh words and spreading tit-for-tat rumors. Woodfolk (The Beauty That Remains) depicts an inclusive group of teenagers (Cleo is black, Layla is Bengali, other key characters are black, white, and Asian) with complicated lives: Cleo’s parents are splitting up; there’s a cute, smart new guy in school she might like; she gets stuck tutoring Layla; and making—and trusting—new friends is a challenge. The richly detailed first-person narration moves back and forth in time, opening with Cleo’s realization that she has to start living in the present. It’s a satisfying coming-of-age friendship story, with Cleo learning to stop seeing people as all good (her father, past Layla) or all bad (her mother, current Layla), and that change can be exhilarating rather than disastrous. Ages 14–up. Agent: Beth Phelan, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Mar.)