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Karen Kingsbury’s ‘When We Were Young’: How Our Little Decisions Impact More Than We Think

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Karen Kingsbury's latest novel, “When We Were Young,” is a moving story that reminds us to examine how our choices will impact our future; and not always positively.


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“When We Were Young” is the latest from bestselling novelist, Karen Kingsbury. Kingsbury is a master of inspirational storytelling, as witnessed by her status as a #1 New York Times author over and over. Her beloved Baxter Family series alone has sold millions of copies and won numerous awards. Readers love her novels for their ability to move, inspire, as well as provoke and teach. “When We Were Young” ticks all these boxes with ease.

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While a part of the Baxter Family series, the book stands alone and centers on the relationship of Noah and Emily Carter. The Carters are social media darlings with over 1 million followers. “When We Were Young” is the handle for their Instagram account where they have shared their love story from proposal to marriage and children. But what began as a joy-filled representation of their love has evolved into a social media monster, constantly asking to be fed. And the disparity between the Carter’s carefully crafted presentation and their reality has become impossible to ignore.

Karen Kingsbury's 'When We Were Young': How Lives Little Decisions Add Up

Noah and Emily are at a breaking point, due greatly to Noah’s obsession with their following. The erosion of their relationship finally comes to a head with the couple deciding to call it quits. This moment is where Kingsbury draws us into the Carters’ world. It is the day before Noah’s planned departure, and the story that plays out over a 24-hour-period is a turning point in all of their lives.

When Noah wakes up, suddenly he is 20 years in the future and the life he took for granted has utterly changed. As the consequences of his decisions play out before him, Noah’s world is turned upside down and he is forced to question everything. Kingsbury gives a nod to Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carole” with Noah’s life-altering journey through the night.

It’s a healthy reminder not to confuse virtual connection for real-life connection with the people we care about most.

Kingsbury is incredibly timely with the underlying themes in “When We Were Young.”Across the world, we are living a great social experiment where anybody can become “internet famous.” The emotional and relational impacts of social media and technology addiction are still playing themselves out in our society. But one thing is certain, it affects all of us. Kingsbury deftly draws attention not only to the effects Noah’s addiction had on himself, but the damage it caused his family as well. Kingsbury doesn’t have to preach the message to find readers’ hearts; the story of the Carter’s speaks louder than a thousand lectures, as we see the way a million little choices can snowball into a reality we never saw coming.

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Besides being an expertly told story, “When We Were Young” is an invitation to readers to look at their own relationships with technology and social media with greater self-awareness. It’s a healthy reminder not to confuse virtual connection for real-life connection with the people we care about most. Kingsbury effortlessly manages this balance between taking us on a powerful story that will move your emotions as well as your mind. A moving story of “When We Were Young” reminds us to examine how our choices will affect our future; life is not a dress rehearsal.