“When We Were” by Alexandra Diaz

This one is SPECIAL! Because it’s part of a blog tour. EXCITING. I’d never done one of these before, so let’s see how it goes… COMING UP: info about the book, interview with the author, AND my review! (So it’s a long post: sorry about that…)

WhenWeWere1About the book:

They promised they would be friends forever…

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?

What I thought of When We Were:

It took me a while to settle into it, especially because the beginning of the book was dominated by relationship / romance drama. “Your boyfriend is cheating on you with a dude!” As you all know, I’m not a fan of romance. However, I began to get more invested as we saw more characters and learned more about them.

At the beginning of the book, I definitely identified most with Pinkie. She’s a total nerd — she works a whole lot harder than I ever did in school, but I can still relate to her fear of getting in trouble and that sort of thing. Later in the book as we learned more about Pinkie, I think we drifted apart somewhat, by that point I’d started identifying with the others for their own reasons.

They weren’t all likeable people. They were fallible humans who made mistakes, misjudged situations, and said the wrong thing. But at the centre of the book was a meaningful three-way friendship between three girls (Pinkie, Whitney Blaire, and Tara, who is arguably the main character). It changes and develops according to what else is going on, and since I’m an absolute sucker for good friendships in books, I liked that.

when we wereThe book was well written, and some of the romance was ADORABLE. Particularly the f/f romance that develops between Tara and Riley: it was so cute, even if I wasn’t 100% convinced by Riley. She made a few mistakes, and some of them seemed kinda vindictive. That said, she apologised a lot and did her best to make up for it, which was more than some of the others. The whole relationship made me smile like an idiot, and I became really interested and cared a lot what happened.

By the time I finished the book I was a bit of a gooey mess about all of the emotions it was drawing from me: cute queer romance! important friendships! understanding yourself and your identity! I liked that Tara, on realising she was interested in Riley, didn’t feel the need to immediately label herself, and I also liked the realistic portrayal of her mother’s reaction, as it’s more nuanced than the usual black-and-white portrayal. (Usually, parents are either immediately supportive or totally opposed to it.) Tara’s mother, while doing her best to be supportive, does need a bit of time to adjust to the idea that her daughter likes girls.

The story’s told from three points of view, each of the three girls, and that definitely helped to give it depth and allow us to see the different facets of their personalities. One of the quirks that I enjoyed about the book was how each chapter began with a summary of what was happening for them. Tara would list the miles she’d run and how long it’d taken. Pinkie made lists. Etc etc.

Anyway. I ended up enjoying this a surprising amount, so it gets four stars. Whoop.

Rating: ****

Interview with Alexandra Diaz:

When did you start writing When We Were / how long did it take to write?

That’s hard to say. I wrote When We Were for my MA dissertation at Bath Spa University where we needed to have a novel completed by the end of one year. But once I handed it in, I kept working on it for a few more months. Then it went through revisions with my agent, then first publisher… So maybe eighteen nonconsecutive months?

I really liked how Tara didn’t feel the need to immediately label herself as one sexuality or another. What made you decide to present her in this way?

That wasn’t a conscious decision, more something that felt right to me. I’m not a fan of labels, particularly when people try to compartmentalize me, “Are you this or that” and I want to respond by saying, “I’m just me.” What I do and who I am shouldn’t have to follow societal rules imposed by a particular label. I wanted Tara to be comfortable with who she was and the decisions she made, regardless of what that was “called”.

At the centre of the book is a really significant three-way friendship. What do you think is key to a strong friendship like this?

Three-way friendships are very difficult because there is often one person who feels left out/misunderstood or that the other two are ganging up on the third. This dynamic switches around a lot and in the course of one conversation, each individual could go through the third-wheel feeling. But to make it work in the long run is the commitment of each person to make it work, understand the ups and downs, talk out the problems (and avoid getting defensive), and being supportive while giving the individuals space if that’s what they need.

Which of the characters in When We Were would you most like to hang out with in real life, and what do you think you’d talk about?

These characters are a combination of who I am and who I’d like to be in an alter universe setting, as well as their own individuals. That said, I’d hang out with them for different reasons. I’d hang out with Tara because I’d find her intriguing and alluring in her holed up way and we can go hiking together. Pinkie is the one I want when I need a good heart-to-heart and wouldn’t mind when I call her up in the middle of the night. She would always be there for me, no matter what. And Whitney Blaire is the distraction. If I say I want to go dancing, she would know where to go or if I suggest watching the original three Stars Wars in one night, she’d be all for it regardless how early we had to get up the next day.

About Alexandra Diaz:

08 Author PhotoAlexandra 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. Visit her on Twitter @alexandratdiaz, on Facebook, or at: www.alexandra-diaz.com.


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