A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.
Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.
With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.
Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads.
JUST FRIENDS had been on my radar for a while, and I thought I was going into a fluffy, fun, and cute contemporary. While there were some aspects of my expectations present within the novel, I found that many details in this book made me very wary.
The plot revolves around Jenny, who, on the first day of school, suddenly becomes project partners with Chase, who suggests that they make up a story to tell the class. They are so in sync that everyone believes that they have best friends forever. This lie, as suggested by the tagline, turns into so much more—they become closer than ever, revealing many secrets about their family life and various romantic trysts, or lack thereof. While these secrets were drama-filled, these aspects did not capture my attention as much, since the plot was less focused on these issues than it was towards Jenny and Chase’s relationship. Things take a turn when Jenny and Chase convince themselves that they are not in love with each other, and Jenny starts dating Drake, another popular boy.
I found Drake and Jenny’s relationship to be incredibly dangerous. Here’s pictures taken from my ARC, illustrating a sexual event between the two.
Here are are a few quotes that stood out to me:
- “You give me nothing, Jenny.” This is incredibly harmful behavior to be depicting towards an audience that is largely comprised of impressionable young teenagers. Just a reminder, YOU DON’T FUCKING OWE ANYONE, NOT EVEN A SIGNIFICANT OTHER, SEX. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE ANYONE ANYTHING. I’m incredibly disappointed that this kind of manipulative language is present in this novel, especially regarding sex.
- “Like with kissing, the thought of sex had never really interested her much. It was something some people did and others didn’t.” If sex didn’t interest Jenny that much, why is she being written to have sex with Drake? Especially when Drake was being manipulative and suggesting that she owed him sex??? There’s another part in the novel where Jenny mentions how sex wasn’t really in her radar, which, again, stood out to me very much. I feel like there’s a possibility that Jenny is asexual or demisexual, especially with these proclamations, but unfortunately, this was not explored within the context in this novel.
- “If he was ready… then so was she.” UMMMMMM NO, THIS IS NOT HOW SEX WORKS. Your partner being ready for and wanting sex does not automatically mean that you have to be ready for them. This kind of depiction of sex is so, so harmful and wrong.
- The only positive I see from this encounter was the explicit consent. However, I feel like in this context, it would have been much more meaningful if it wasn’t written in such a manipulative way. You can read why I think consent is important within YA novels here.
I thought this book had so much potential to be fun, but it falls into some several cliché traps — which can be enjoyable, if done well! — that didn’t wrap up as nicely as I would have liked. What’s going on with Chase’s family? Will his family ever be reconciled? How are Jenny’s mom and her new boyfriend’s relationship? Do we get some closure for other characters’ arcs or is this novel solely focused upon Jenny and Chase? If it’s the latter, what’s the point in bringing up these familial issues without resolving them?
I am incredibly wary to be recommending this book to young teens and readers in general due to the problematic behavior and the pushing of a character to have sex when I think it was wholly unnecessary. I find that JUST FRIENDS sends some potentially harmful messages regarding personal boundaries and sex. Overall, I found this contemporary romance to be nothing of the sweet, romantic Wattpad-esque story I was expecting, but a book of which to be potentially wary.
Thank you to Macmillan / Swoon Reads for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Alice is an 18 year old college student who loves the oxford comma, television shows, and the company of dogs. She finds writing in the third person odd yet enjoyable. You can find her scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, and forever organizing her shelves on Goodreads.