Review of “You Knew Me When” by Emily Liebert

When this book begins, you might think you’re reading an adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada”, the 2006 film with Meryl Streep as a powerful fashion magazine editor. In this story, Katherine Hill is a cosmetics executive, and she is only 34, but her persona is the same. She is excessively driven; self-preoccupied; all about appearances; mean; and a bully to her employees. There are also references thrown in to a loosely parodied version of the Kardashians, and you start thinking this will just be a boring derivative chick-lit book.

You-Knew-Me-When-199x300

Fortunately, the story soon diverges from its heavily referential beginning. The chapters alternate between Katherine, or Kitty, and Laney, her best friend from age 11. They were so close that Laney’s family treated Kitty like one of their own. In fact, Kitty ended up romantically involved with Laney’s cute older brother Grant. But something bad obviously happened, because the three of them haven’t seen each other or communicated for twelve years.

When a mutual friend (and Kitty’s mentor) Luella Hancock dies, both Kitty and Laney are called to the reading of the will, and in another common trope, they are forced to work together to obtain their inheritance.

Discussion: This book did manage to engage me, and I even shed a few tears at the end, but some of its themes – as mentioned above – were quite hackneyed, and some of it just didn’t cohere. Kitty, for example, is a total witch. Her deteriorating attitude toward Grant and treatment of him twelve years earlier were as you would expect from her behavior in the present day. In fact, it was a total mystery to me why Grant liked Kitty in the first place. Or why anyone did. Or why they liked her later. The basis for their reconciliation didn’t seem sufficient to me; Kitty was still Katherine, for whom being skinny, having the right clothes and makeup (and the money to afford them), and being a mover and a shaker are all still at the top of her priority list.

But my negative reaction to Katherine is of course a product of my own biases. Other readers will find her resilient and admirable.

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by New American Library, a member of Penguin Group (USA), 2013

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7 Responses to Review of “You Knew Me When” by Emily Liebert

  1. sandynawrot says:

    Well, these types of novels don’t do much for me. I think nowadays, I’m looking for something that gives me something new and different. Teaches me something. Surprises me. I appreciate you reading this one so I don’t have to! Haha

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    Hm, I don’t mind characters like Katherine if something happens to redeem them in the end. I’ll have to think about this book.

  3. Athira says:

    I just loved the Devil Wears Prada movie, probably thanks to its two main characters. But I’ve never been able to make myself read the book it’s based on, even though I have it, for fear it may ruin my impression. This one sounds like it may work better as a movie.

  4. I need something light, but don’t think this one would work for me either:(

  5. Heather says:

    I agree with Sandy – I’m glad you read this one so I don’t have to. 😉

  6. Shame Emily’s such a jerk. Ordinarily I love stories where there’s like some unspoken tragedy/bust-up of some kind, and the characters have been not-confronting it all this time and suddenly have to confront it. So many wonderful opportunities for good character interactions, as long as the characters aren’t total witches. :/

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    Hm. I don’t have much patience for those types of people these days-in life or in books!

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