Bitterness and Lies Between JUST FRIENDS–A Review

just-friends-blitz-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a dark contemporary YA romance form best-selling author Monica Murphy. JUST FRIENDS explores the dynamics between several high school seniors, and how their friendships are altered by sex.

just-friends-coverAbout the book:
It’s the end of summer. Just before I start senior year with my two best friends in the whole world. Dustin and Emily are everything to me. We’ve been inseparable since middle school, and when we’re together, nothing can go wrong.

But things aren’t always what they seem. Em’s turned into a drunken mess who parties too much. Dustin and I have hooked up a few times—and now he’s ready to take our relationship to the next level. Yet I’m not sure I want things to change. I’m scared if I take it any further with Dustin, our friendship will be ruined forever. Then there’s Ryan. The new guy. He’s hot. He flirts way too much. And Em has totally set her sights on him.

So when my best friend betrays me in the worst possible way, guess who’s there to help me pick up the pieces of my broken heart? Ryan. But he’s so confusing. Annoying. Sweet. Sexy. I want to trust him, yet he makes it so hard. What I really want is for everything to go back to the way it was before.

Before I found out that best friends make the worst kind of enemies.

My Review:
This is a rather dark contemporary YA romance that features a lot of manipulation, fair amounts of drugs and alcohol, and some sex on the page between high school seniors.

Olivia, Dustin and Emily are three best friends growing up in an upscale California town. Olivia and Dustin had been having a casual physical relationship that Dustin wants to escalate, but Olivia’s worried it’ll upset Em. Also, Olivia is conflicted regarding Dustin. She loves him, but isn’t sure if she can really date him. She leaves for an extended summer visit in Oregon with her father. Over the weeks Olivia’s gone lots of changes happen between Em and Dustin, and Em in particular. She begins drinking more heavily, and invites over more popular kids to party at her house while her parents leave her unattended for days on end. There is lots of getting high, and getting wasted and getting horizontal–especially for Em and new boy Ryan.

Ryan’s made it clear: he only wants Em for a casual hook-up, and has no real feelings for her. He’s not the only boy Em hooks up with, though, and the revelations send shock waves through what seemed an unshakeable friendship between Em, Olivia and Dustin. I think this part was really easy to relate to, as betrayal is a touchstone emotion. I must say that the guys in this book are so ridiculous. It’s as if they are all running a bizarre sexual Catch-22, where the more a girl gives, the less they desire her–and that felt cruel. The Just Friends distinction was openly false, with some people pretending to “use” their users. I seriously wanted to smack some people, maybe everyone. There’s back-biting, and cat-fighting and actual fighting, though it’s not always front-and-center. Em’s jealous that not only Dustin, but Ryan, seem to want Olivia, and it’s rough to experience how they all fall apart over he said/she said and these false distinctions regarding attacment and attraction. That was unfortunately terrifyingly believable, those little digs and cuts people make to hurt those with whom they are closest, and really brought home the subtle slut shaming that is just as pervasive as open slut-shaming.

Ryan is the ultimate player, and he doesn’t mind twisting any situation to his advantage. He seems a consummate narcissist, and he wants Olivia. Because reasons. Is he playing her to get Em to give up more? Or is he jsut flirting? Or, does he want to build a real relationship? None of this seems clear to Olivia, who is rightfully suspicious and cautious. Ryan sees no problems with the way he’s treated other girls, notably Em, and I get that he feels blameless there, but it’s a hollow sort of acceptance for the reader. In general, I didn’t like Ryan, and never found an affinity for him. I had a real intuition that he’d play Olivia, and while it doesn’t seem that happens, the book ends with a set-up for a sequel. So, heartache may still loom.

The book is rife with drama and angst, as Olivia unwinds her feelings for Em, Dustin, and Ryan. Plus, she’s got a creepy dude dating her mom who seems to be a developing problem. I’m encouraged that Olivia’s new friend, Amanda, will be a bigger part of the next book, as she seemed like a nice girl and one I’d like to see have a real love. I’m not so sure I’m interested in Olivia’s life, except as one stands by, horrified, watching a train wreck unfold in slow motion. Gonna be lots of collateral damage, I’m sure.

Interested? You can find JUST FRIENDS on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, Can, and Aus), Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

About the Author:
Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is a traditionally published author with Bantam/Random House and Harper Collins/Avon, as well as an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

Catch up With Monica here: