A sweet and heartfelt tale of young love flourishing into a relationship later on in life, Just Friends was a wonderful and easy read. There is a fluidity in the transitions between Emi and Erika’s adulthood and their childhood memories that keeps the story engaging. This novel is filled with the bittersweet nostalgia of adolescence, scattered between awkward moments, bad decisions, and growing pains. Unrequited crushes and fleeting feelings, ocean waves, and sleepless summer nights, we get front-row seats to the growing bond of two teen girls during summer camp, and their fateful reconnection as adults. Even after the years spent maturing, the time didn’t make things any less complicated. Instead, it seemed to only tangle up more.
In their youth, their friendship grew nearly instantaneously. Erika was reserved and preferred to spend her time alone doodling in her notebook, but everything changed when she met the bubbly and infectious Emi. Emi coaxed Erika out of her shell, and the pair quickly became attached despite their clear personality differences.
“What’re you doing here?”
“I didn’t like leaving you alone.”
The art style is charming and perfect for the story being told. It is easy to get lost in the pages, letting the tension of all of the questions revolving around the camp goers’ relationships suck the reader in. It isn’t long before Emi and Erika both find themselves spending a lot of time with boys that are clearly falling for them. But how do Emi and Erika feel about these boys? How do they feel about each other?
“Besides, we’ve drunk too much. We don’t even know what we’re saying now.”
“I do. I’m drunk… but I know I want to kiss you.”
Amidst the flourishing yet intangible romances are tough conversations about past friendships and peer pressure. The hierarchy in high school is very important, and can easily become a detriment to the connections of people in different social groups. We see this between Emi and Celia as they try to reconcile the mishaps of their past.
Just Friends is a beautiful yet heart-wrenching, queer coming-of-age tale that has an endearing story to tell. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something cute and casual that will still fill you with a lot of emotions. Just Friends was published digitally through TokyoPop on October 28th, 2022, and will be released in print on February 14th, 2023.