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3 September 2013

Review: 'You Knew Me When' by Emily Liebert (2013)

Katherine Hill left her small New England hometown in pursuit of a dream. Now, twelve years later, she’s a high-powered cosmetics executive in Manhattan and a much glossier version of her former self, unrecognizable to her family and old friends. Not that she would know—she hasn’t been home in over a decade.

Laney Marten always swore she’d never get “stuck” in Manchester, Vermont. No, she was destined to live out her glamorous big-city dreams. Instead, she wound up a young wife and mother. That was when her best friend ran out.

When Katherine receives word of an inheritance from former neighbor Luella Hancock, she reluctantly returns home to the people and places she left behind. Hoping for a second chance, she’s met by an unforgiving Laney, her former best friend. And there’s someone else who’s moved on without her—someone she once loved.

Tethered to their shared inheritance of Luella’s sprawling Victorian mansion, Katherine and Laney are forced to address their long-standing grudges. Through this, they come to understand that while life has taken them in different directions, ultimately the bonds of friendship and sisterhood still bind them together. But are some wounds too old and deep to mend?

Next to my own blog, I’m also a book reviewer for Chick Lit Club (a website which I’m sure all chick lit fans are familiar with!), which is how I got into touch with Sarah Hall Productions, Inc. about reviewing Emily Liebert’s debut novel ‘You Knew Me When.’ I immediately loved the sound of this book and really looked forward to reading it. I’d heard of Emily Liebert’s other release, ‘Facebook Fairytales: Modern-Day Miracles to Inspire the Human Spirit’, which is a collection of true stories about people who experienced something surprising, touching, amusing through their Facebook account. ‘You Knew Me When’ is Emily’s first venture into the world of fiction, and I was quite curious to find out more about it!

After her mother’s unexpected death, Katherine and her dad move to a new neighbourhood in Manchester, Vermont, in order to start afresh. From the first second in this new town, Katherine becomes best friends with Laney, and the two are quickly inseparable. Over the years, they start planning their future: going to college, moving to New York, having glamorous and successful careers... All of it together, obviously. However, when the end of high school is near, suddenly everything changes. Fast-forward twelve years, and Laney and Katherine are no longer in touch. Until they both receive the same letter: their old neighbour and friend Luella has passed away and she has named both Laney and Katherine in her will. They are forced to work together again after all these years and everything that has happened. Will the girls be able to set aside their problems and differences, or is it true that some things can be forgiven, but never forgotten?

‘You Knew Me When’ is mainly written from Katherine’s perspective, with some chapters from Laney’s point of view as well, and numerous flashbacks to when the two girls were growing up together. The mixture of both Katherine and Laney’s voices, and the portrayal of the two characters as teenage girls and as grown-up women, is really well-done. Especially the flashbacks revealed the closeness of their friendship, and this really added a nostalgic layer to the story. I could easily relate to some of Laney and Katherine’s experiences growing up, and the feeling of having that one best friend who is basically your whole life at that moment, and I think most female readers will recognise this while reading. The tale even reminded me a bit of Emily Giffin’s ‘Something Borrowed’, which is also a brilliant novel about a friendship between two female characters, Rachel and Darcy. 

Emily Liebert’s writing is fantastic: easy to read, captivating, and she manages to capture certain emotions perfectly. The novel mainly focuses on the two primary characters, Laney and Katherine, and the other characters aren’t really worked out in close detail. However, this didn’t bother me in any way, because it is Katherine and Laney’s story that is central to the novel; two best friends trying to find their way back to one another, after life has come in the way. ‘You Knew Me When’ is a heart-warming, thoroughly enjoyable novel about the power of friendship and the trials of growing up, which any female reader will be able to relate to. I loved this novel and it is definitely one of my favourite 2013 releases; I can’t wait to read more of Emily Liebert’s work!  

Rating: 9,5/10

Keep an eye on this blog for an exclusive interview with author Emily Liebert!

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