When We Were Strangers is an affecting, expertly told contemporary YA novel that explores the complexity of love, loss and family.
Seventeen-year-old Evie Parker is mourning the sudden death of her father when she makes a shocking discovery: on the day he died of a heart attack, he was going to leave Evie and her mother. He was planning to move in with his receptionist, Bree, who is "beautiful and young, fresh and blond" and pregnant. Evie, hoping to spare her mother further heartbreak, unpacks her father's belongings and hides the truth. Her mother, hoping to give Evie a distraction, signs her up for a summer photography class. There she finds creative fulfillment and falls for her cute Asian American classmate, Declan. But Evie can't shake her fascination with Bree. She begins to follow her father's mistress around with a camera, feeling "safer from behind a lens." When circumstances bring Evie and Bree face-to-face, Evie is forced to reckon with the assumptions she has made and to confront the complicated truth about her father's affair.
Alex Richards (Accidental) skillfully channels the voice of a teenage girl experiencing emotional turmoil--as Evie is grieving, she also comes into her own as an artist and finds friendship as well as unexpected first love. When We Were Strangers has no heroes or villains, only flawed, sympathetic characters trying their best. Evie initially views Bree as "a monster" but learns that "Bree is more than just one thing... we all are." Richards's deft first-person narration infuses what could easily be a grim story with hope, humor and empathy. --Alanna Felton, freelance reviewer