The Teenage Friendships Behind Before We Were Innocent
I decided to write the book I’ve always wanted to write - one about friendship. Specifically, teenage friendship, in all its glory and its gore. The dark side as well as the intense love.
Dec 5, 2023
In early 2021, I was starting the third draft of a book I didn’t love, in another London lockdown. It felt like life was in a permanent palette of stormy greys and muddy browns and, feeling the pressure, I put everything on hold for a moment to clear my head. By chance, my mum had recently dropped my teenage diaries over and, as I started to read, I was struck by the intensity within the pages - particularly when anything concerned my tight-knit friendship group. Not long after, I decided to write the book I’ve always wanted to write - one about friendship. Specifically, teenage friendship, in all its glory and its gore. The dark side as well as the intense love.
As the weeks passed, I went from finding it nearly impossible to feel inspired, to not being able to stop writing about these three young women – Bess, Joni, and Evangeline – and the summer in Greece that shaped them. I remembered new things from my own teenage years – the power struggles and jealousy, the vulnerability and bravado, the love, and considered what would have happened if I (if any of us) had experienced an unfathomable tragedy at this most formative of times.
After Evangeline’s death, the media flattened her into a saintly figure - someone who was undeserving of her tragic fate not because she was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her but because she was (in their eyes) perfectly untarnished. Evangeline is destined to be remembered only as being pure-hearted and beautiful; a cruel disservice to a blazing young woman on the brink of adulthood.
Inevitably, Joni and Bess are cast as the villains of the story – roles they will have to reckon with over the next decade as their true sense of self (and one another) slips further out of reach. And while there is a mystery at the core of Before We Were Innocent, this story is as much an elegy to friendship as it is anything else—a love story for the people in our lives who are able to coax our true selves back out in even the darkest of times.