An invitation to a high school reunion drops into your inbox. How do you feel? Are you excited to catch up with old friends? Curious to see how your life compares to theirs? Or does the mere thought of high school strike fear into your heart?
The graduates of Macquarie High are experiencing the full gamut of emotions when they receive an invitation to their twenty-year reunion. But there’s something more sinister going on. Because they’re also receiving threats — ominous yearbook entries written by someone who knows their personal information and details of their most private thoughts. Someone is holding a grudge against these former school friends. Someone dangerous.
B.M. Carroll’s Who We Were features a cast of seven main characters and alternates between their points-of-view. The multi-person narrative is becoming ever-popular in the psychological thriller genre and makes for enjoyable reading when it’s done well. And it’s done very well here. Annabel, the most popular girl in school, is now a mother of three children. Nerdy Katy has since reinvented herself and is the instigator of the reunion. Luke isn’t the type of guy to get hung up on the past. High school bully, Zach, swears he’s changed after meeting his wife and becoming a doctor. Melissa, a successful businesswoman, can’t forget her first love, Jarred… but he’s now Annabel’s husband. Grace doesn’t want her children to be the doormat she was at school. And Robbie, who was brutally bullied by the popular kids, has been living rough and hasn’t seen his family in twenty years.
Yearbook entries from the past are used to great effect, comparing each character’s school persona with their present day selves. While twenty years has certainly made a difference, not everyone has managed to cast off those high school labels. While some are eager to demonstrate how much they’ve changed, others are simply unable, or unwilling, to behave differently. Who We Were is a fascinating exploration of how the social relationships of high school can have repercussions lasting long into adulthood.
The author cleverly inserts a few shady characters into the individual narratives of each main character to keep the reader on their toes, wondering — could it be them? Are they the person sending the threats? While this is a quick read with a great hook, punchy language, and plenty of tense moments, it also touches on serious issues such as mental health and teenage drug use. The nail-biting showdown between the perpetrator and their intended victims leads to a satisfying, although tragic, conclusion.
Who We Were is a page-turning story about second chances, misunderstandings, revenge, and what happens when your life doesn’t turn out how you expected it to when you were in high school. It’ll have you thinking about your own school years and wondering if you’d do anything differently. Would you?
Who We Were by B.M. Carroll is published by Allen & Unwin.
He can’t stop. It’s like scratching a scab. He’s bleeding but he has to keep gouging.