Published February 2012 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: I received this copy from the publisher
"It was love at first sight, and also sort of like looking in the mirror on a really, really good day. I saw that Jane was just like me but better.."
When Jane and Willa first met in college, they were first and foremost struck by their similarity in appearance. But what quickly made them the best of friends was the way they made each other laugh and they way they instinctively understood and complimented each other. Now several years out of college, the pair have become roommates, struggling along on part-time work, but thoroughly happy with their lives.
When Willa reluctantly attends a high school reunion, she is stunned to find her first best friend, Ben, there. Just like Jane and Willa, Ben and Willa had been inseparable for through high school, their very own nerd club. A year after graduation, though, Ben disappeared from Willa's life for reasons she never understood. Not until the night of the reunion when Ben finally tells Willa that he had been in love with her for years. It doesn't take long for the two to realize there is no spark between them. When Ben stops by the apartment the next day, though, there is an immediate spark between Ben and Jane.
The blooming romance means that Willa now gets to spend her time with her two best friends, something that initially delights her. The more serious the relationship between Jane and Ben gets, the harder it is for Willa to be happy for them. She begins to feel like the third wheel and the reality that Ben and Jane will one day begin a life that doesn't include her terrifies Willa.
When I was offered this book for review, I figured it would be a nice light read, the kind I use as the sorbet of reading to cleanse my palate between meatier choices. There are plenty of chick lit elements to this book: a friendship between young women, a new love with a problem, and plenty of humor. But Friends Like Us has an unexpected depth. When Willa sees another trio of friends out bowling, she wonders:
"What separates us from them? We all think we're snowflakes, but we're Tinker Toys, held together by our interchangeable parts."Willa grew with parents whose constant fighting left a deep scar on Willa and her brother, Seth.
"The truth about two people who don't like each other much is that their fights can be small, gnawing things. I know something about this. I know that this is how people destroy each other, in ugly increments, slivers of their lives falling away until, all at once, they topple."The fighting and inevitable divorce left Willa unable to define herself and Seth unable to sustain a relationship and the two unable to even depend on each other. As Willa is trying to make sense of her place in the trio she helped create, she is also caught up with trying to patch Seth up after his latest breakup. Will it also allow the two of them to create the bond they never had?
While I wanted to shake some sense into Willa almost nonstop, I couldn't help but feel sorry of her as well. Without a family to rely on and without a circle of friends to fill the void, Willa was bound to make some bad choices, choices that were certainly very believable. Although I felt that Fox could have dialed back on the humor a bit, most of the characters actions and reactions, in fact, felt real.
In the first chapter, Fox tells the reader something about what will become of the friendship between Willa and Jane. But I was completely wrong in guessing how they came to that point; any time a writer can surprise me, I'm a happy reader. And Fox doesn't wrap the story up with a tidy bow at the end of the book; you know how much I love when authors leave the reader thinking. So, as annoying as I sometimes found Willa (and Ben for that matter), I feel like, in Friends Like Us, Fox has given the reader a book well worth reading.