Book Reviews

Review: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

You know those books that reach into your chest and rip your heart out? That was me and When You Were Everything. Handling themes of friendship, love, and mistakes, When You Were Everything is an emotional story of loss. Keep reading my book review to hear me sob all my feelings.


You can’t rewrite the past, but you can always choose to start again.

It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.

Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.

Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

When You Were Everything is a heart wrenching story about mistakes, friendship, and loss. The friendships and loss which hits us harder than any other relationship. When someone was a part of you – a piece of your soul – and they begin drifting away, they break apart. I knew from the beginning that When You Were Everything was going to be emotional, but it’s also a love letter to the magic of New York City and to family.

While When You Were Everything revolves around Cleo and Layla’s friendship, the story focuses on Cleo’s life – the moments where things begin crumbling – in her friendship with Layla, her own family, and her life. Those times when our house of cards seems to be attacked from all fronts and tipping on the point of collapse. I loved that from the beginning, Cleo’s family is a huge part of the story. Looking into windows we think we understand, the secrets we keep from each other, the rose colored glasses.


From page one, When You Were Everything is full of emotions and suspense as we wonder what happened between Cleo and Layla. The dual timeline writing style is fabulous at maintaining this tension – before and after – and I couldn’t stop myself from reading more. What makes When You Were Everything so amazing, so memorable, is how Woodfolk doesn’t make anyone out to be the culprit. We can’t easily say if someone’s actions were right or wrong, because we’ve all made mistakes. And this goes across the board, not only for Cleo, but all the characters.

I adore books which explore family and When You Were Everything has such phenomenal exploration. It’s not only about the secrets that Cleo begins to find out, but the ways in which When You Were Everything is a learning experience about who we are, what kind of person we want to be, and who are the people around us. We can begin to assume the people we love will never change, that the person we are with them will never change, but that’s not true.


When You Were Everything is just so gorgeously written. There are lines that I had to stop and digest. I love how Woodfolk celebrates how messy and complex our friendships can be. The fact that sometimes our friendships can’t stretch without growing pains, that sometimes we don’t know how to bridge the distances between us, to have those difficult conversations. How we sometimes expect too much, for our friendship, for us, to never change.

Find When You Were Everything on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


Do you have a friendship break up story?

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