Willa Jacobs and Jane Weston are inseparable best friends and roommates. They’re closer than sisters, and they even look alike. The two eke out an existence in Milwaukee working part time jobs and pursuing their artistic aspirations, and life is pretty good. When Willa’s high school friend reappears and promptly falls for Jane, she’s left wondering where she fits in.
Lauren Fox’s second novel offers a funny, bittersweet look at the delicacy of friendship and how it shapes us. It is a novel for Generation Y, and it features characters who are flawed, real, and utterly relatable. Despite meandering a bit in the middle, this is a smart, strong coming-of-age novel.
It helps that Fox’s prose is completely lovely. Willa’s observations about the world and about relationships are dead-on, well-constructed, and often very funny. Willa’s voice as a whole is authentic, and Fox’s talent for language is largely the reason for this. While Willa will probably divide readers–she’s undeniably self-destructive and absolutely wounded–it will be hard to deny the fact that she’s funny, witty, and complex.
Jane provides a nice contrast to Willa’s more exuberant personality. Quieter than Willa, Jane serves as a foil to Willa’s damaged past. Their tidy friendship begins to unravel as soon as Ben enters the picture, and it is interesting to note that both girls sacrifice their friendship with one another at a chance for love.
While the story could easily become maudlin or totally cliched, Fox keeps it nicely balanced, creating a surprisingly real ending to a story that seems fairly doomed from the start. This ending will frustrate some readers who are used to absolute closure (or an unending series of sequels), but this novel’s conclusion fits the story and allows readers for form their own opinions.
A thoughtful, provocative look at female friendship in the modern age. Highly recommended.
Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox. Knopf: 2012. Library copy.