Book Review: Friends Like These by Meg Rosoff

About the Book:

New York City. June, 1982. When eighteen-year-old Beth arrives in Manhattan for a prestigious journalism internship, everything feels brand new – and not always in a good way. A cockroach-infested sublet and a disaffected roommate are the least of her worries, and she soon finds herself caught up with her fellow interns – preppy Oliver, ruthless Dan and ridiculously cool, beautiful, wild Edie.

Soon, Beth and Edie are best friends – the sort of heady, all-consuming best-friendship that’s impossible to resist. But with the mercury rising and deceit mounting up, betrayal lies just around the corner. Who needs enemies … when you have friends like these?

From bestselling, award-winning author Meg Rosoff comes a gritty, intoxicating novel about a summer of unforgettable firsts: of independence, lies, love and the inevitable loss of innocence.

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Released August 2022

My Thoughts:

I didn’t realise when I bought this one that it was a YA release. Honestly, I didn’t even pick up on that while reading it. To me, it read as a really decent coming of age story and it wasn’t until preparing the review and reading about it on the publisher’s website that I noted the YA audience. This is probably a good thing because I don’t read YA as a habit anymore. It’s rare that they don’t feel like a YA novel. In terms of this one, I would say it’s more older YA, than younger, perhaps more like a new adult audience as that’s the age of the characters and there’s a fair bit of sex and drug taking going on.

‘Most of this information she had gleaned from overheard conversations. Her parents rarely spoke of loss. Beth often wondered if they spoke to each other on the subject. She sometimes felt as if she had inherited the gross accumulation of her parents’ silence, the weight of an immeasurable, unacknowledged horror planted within her like the seed of some hungry vine.’

There are some great themes to unpack from this one and it clips along at a good pace too. Beth is a child of Holocaust survivors, spreading her wings in New York for the summer working as an intern at a paper between finishing high school and beginning college. She’s from a small town, so the learning curve is a steep one and she arrives in NY all wide-eyed and impressionable – ripe for taking advantage of.

‘She thought about herself, how even when he was forcing himself on her, she was mostly worried about waking Edie, as if being polite were somehow more important than – whatever.’

New York in the early 1980s comes to life with the issues that would have been prevalent in the day taking centre stage: the high crime rates, the emergence of Aids and the terror of the unknown that accompanied the initial waves, sexism in the workplace, rape culture. A New York summer and the way the city exists within those long roasting months; the abovementioned issues; the characters and their newly adult lives playing out within this micro-universe – all of this combined into a highly charged read that was literally dripping with atmosphere.

‘She knew what would happen now. Edie would hang off her arm, seduce her with compliments and kisses and jokes, and she’d feel churlish about being angry. Maybe she was too sensitive to brush off Edie’s flashes of cheerful aggression. It probably meant nothing, but they annoyed her.’

Above all though, this is a story about friendship, the good ones and the toxic ones. It’s a uniquely female story in that it depicts the sort of friendship many women can look back on and recognise. The toxic ones characterised by a specific sort of gaslighting that builds one person up whilst keeping the other one firmly in their place. The author demonstrated the lifespan of Beth and Edie’s friendship so perfectly, from the first giddy meeting right through to the toxic end. I finished up really admiring Beth and feeling a sense of satisfaction in her choices and where she was headed. I’m keen now to read more by this author.

Highly recommended – and not just for YA audiences!

Book 19 in my 22 in 2022 challenge.

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