Happy New Year. The first review of 2011. I could have started off the new year reviewing a joyful tale, but I don't really have anything like that on my TBR pile. We're starting off the year with What My Best Friend Did by Lucy Dawson. The description on the back compares it to the movie Single White Female. While a path of death and destruction doesn't follow best friends Gretchen and Alice in this book, but it will make you take a closer look at your own friendships.
When the book opens, Alice is in an ambulance rushing Gretchen to the hospital. There is an air of mystery as to the reason why they are rushing to the hospital. My first thought was a suicide attempt, which is partially true. Dawson's writing alludes to something more. Alice is feeling guilty. She is also full of remorse for not doing something for Gretchen. But what was it? Why didn't she help her friend? Several hints are dropped along the way, until the big reveal at the end.
The book flashes back about a year, a time when Alice was feeling down about her life. Alice is a bored London-based travel photographer. She has a boyfriend, Tom, who has marriage and mortgages on the brain. Alice wants something more, and finds it while on assignment in Los Angeles. She's been tasked to photograph Gretchen, a London TV host, looking to make it big in America. Gretchen is full of energy and has to be the center of attention, everyone is drawn to her. When she walks in the room there's more excitement, more life. Alice is drawn to her, but feels the only way Gretchen will like her is if she's more interesting. She lies about her relationship with Tom and claims to be happier than she actually is. I'm thinking why lie? If a person wants to be your friend, they will like you for who you are. Lies on top of lies won't help.
Before you know it, Alice's livelihood is all about Gretchen. They go out socially at every chance. Soon Alice's thoughts and relationships are dominated by Gretchen. What will Gretchen think? Is Gretchen mad at me? Gretchen this! Gretchen that!
Alice's lies catch up to her when she gives into an attraction to Gretchen's brother Bailey. Gretchen claims to be OK with the potential relationship. But Alice and Bailey being together means that is one less person paying attention to Gretchen. Why does she crave so much attention? Why is her happiness more important than her best friend? Tom and Alice's relationship is also ruined because of Gretchen. Is it intentional? Is it by accident? The clues to her behavior are there, but I looked past them initially. Gretchen has manic depression. Suddenly her up and down behavior makes sense, but she uses it to manipulate people and situations to her advantage.
Because of her behavior it's hard to know what's real and what isn't. So, ultimately what did she do? I can't tell you, read the book. I do wish the transitions between the past and the present were a little more clear, however this is still a worthwhile read. You will ask yourself, how far are you willing to go for a friend? Would you do anything for them? At what cost? Alice and Gretchen are destructive in their own ways. They both do things to sabotage the friendship and their own lives. Other people become less important because of their friendship. In the beginning they both sound like people you would want to be friends with, but by the end I hated them both.
Rating: Give it a try
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information on author Lucy Dawson, visit http://www.lucydawsonbooks.co.uk/