That's What Frenemies Are For

That's What Frenemies Are For

by Sophie Littlefield, Lauren Gershell


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In this razor-sharp novel for fans of When Life Gives You Lululemons, a Manhattan socialite turns her spin instructor into a fitness superstar to impress her friends. But can she keep her little project under control? Or has she created a monster?

Julia Summers seems to have it all: a sprawling Upper East Side apartment, a successful husband, and two adorable children attending the best private school in the city. She relishes wielding influence over her well-heeled girlfriends . . . but her star appears to be fading. That’s why, when stranded in Manhattan for the summer as her entire crowd flees to the Hamptons, Julia is on the hunt for the next big thing that will make her the envy of her friends and put her back on top.

Enter Flame, the new boutique gym in her neighborhood. Seductive and transformative, Flame’s spin classes are exactly what Julia needs—and demure, naïve instructor Tatum is her ticket in. But rebranding Tatum as a trendy guru proves hard work, and Julia’s triumphant comeback at summer’s end doesn’t quite go as planned. Tatum begins to grasp just how much power her newfound stardom holds, and when things suddenly get ugly, Julia realizes she’s in way over her head.

Julia’s life is already spiraling out of control when her husband is arrested for fraud and bribery. As her so-called friends turn their backs on her, and Tatum pursues her own agenda, Julia is forced to rethink everything she knew about her world to reclaim her perfect life. But does she even want it back? Witty and incisive, Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell’s That’s What Frenemies Are For provides an engrossing glimpse into the cutthroat moms’ club of the Upper East Side.

Advance praise for That’s What Frenemies are For

“Pack up your beach bag and put your phone on Do Not Disturb: This modern-day Pygmalion story is juicy fun! Fans of Lauren Weisberger and Jill Kargman will delight in this delicious romp about how the other half lives.”—Jamie Brenner, bestselling author of The Forever Summer and Drawing Home
“Whether this book hits a little too close to home or offers the perfect escape, readers will love the insanity of Julia’s social ups and downs in this clever novel.”—Laurie Gelman, author of Class Mom

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984817969
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/30/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 100,765
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Sophie Littlefield is the author of more than twenty bestselling adult and YA novels. She is the recipient of an Anthony Award and an RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, and she has been shortlisted for Edgar, Macavity, Barry, and Crimespree awards. The New York Times has called her “a regular writing machine.”

Lauren Gershell was born and raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she now lives with her family. She holds a B.A. and law degree from Columbia University. That's What Frenemies Are For is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

There is a particular species of shrew that injects a dose of anesthetizing venom into its prey so it can feed at leisure while the victim is still alive. Maybe it’s a kindness; more likely it’s just nature’s inclination to keep you still and compliant as disaster strikes. You only realize you’re f***ed when it’s too late.

Think about it: markets crash when investors are feeling fat and happy. Spouses leave when their jilted partners are convinced things are finally on the right track again. And when it’s your turn, there’s nothing you can do. You’re the mouse. That short-­tailed shrew bearing down on you with an oily grin? That’s that old familiar bastard, fate.

In my case, the early months of the new year passed in not-­unpleasant monotony, our household bobbing along in the privileged waters of the Upper East Side. My husband worked hard and made a lot of money. I was a stay-­at-­home mom of two young children, a pampered wife with a busy social calendar, a sought-­after friend with a reputation for the mildly outrageous.

At least, I had been for a time, when everything I touched turned—­if not into gold, at least into Instagram posts with hundreds of likes and invitations to every party worth going to and the fawning admiration of those on the fringes of my circle.

Dear reader, allow me to give you a little preview of my story: I had it all, once, but I let it slip away. I’d been a golden girl all my life: rich, spoiled, attractive, confident, with a talent for cultivating envy. But as I reached the mid-­point of my thirties, I grew sloppy or lazy or distracted—­it’s hard to remember exactly why I stopped trying—­and I lost my luster. People noticed; they drifted away. When I realized how far my star had fallen, I became desperate to fight my way back. Naïvely, I thought it couldn’t get any worse than to be irrelevant.

I lost my way. And then I lost my nerve. And then I made a mistake.

It was a chilly evening in May, and James and I were attending our daughter’s lower school play at the exclusive Graylon Academy on the Upper East Side of New York City, where our children would soon be finishing kindergarten and second grade. James had been working around the clock on a new deal, a former nursing home in Chelsea that his firm was turning into luxury condos, and I’d ordered him to take a night off and come to the performance. You don’t show up to such an event without your husband unless you wish to answer for it all night. Managing our husbands is one of the skills on which we judge each other.

I had asked our nanny to stay late and watch Henry, our younger child. I’d already dropped Paige off at the school to get ready for the play, in which she had a minor role as a mushroom. The play was a morality tale about inclusivity, as far as I could tell, told through vegetables.

Benilda’s contract was for 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each weekday plus additional hours “as needed,” for which we paid her extra. James had asked me several times why we couldn’t cut back on her hours now that both Henry and Paige were in school. James didn’t grow up here—­he’s from Allentown—­and he could be insensitive to the fact that certain things simply weren’t done. Our compromise was to ask Benilda to take on the housekeeping and laundry, which allowed us to let our twice-­a-­week housekeeper go.

At work, James had no problem managing a staff of eleven. But Benilda—­with her thick black bob cut precisely jaw length, her acid-­washed jeans, the rapid-­fire conversations she had on the phone in Tagalog with her daughters—­could reduce him to silence with a single “Not so fast, Mr. James.”

This, in fact, was what she said as we were leaving, our contribution for the evening’s charity collection in my hands, a stack of women’s thermal underwear still in the Gap bag. “Not so fast, Mrs. Julia. Take this for school.”

She handed me a small box wrapped in shiny, cheap paper I didn’t recognize. I’d always encouraged Benilda to help herself to my gift-­wrap closet: before the holidays I mailed her packages to her daughters in Sorsogon myself.

“What’s this?”

“Paige wanted to buy her own gift for poor kids. We went to CVS. She used her birthday money.”

I was torn between pride in my daughter and resentment that Paige had confided this wish to Benilda and not me. Lord knows I’d tried to foster a generous spirit in her, but empathy tends to be in short supply among eight-­year-­olds.

“What is it?”

“Nail polish kit. Deluxe kind with six colors.” Benilda nodded with satisfaction. I had no choice but to take the box from her. “They wrap for free!”

In the Uber, James brought it up. “I thought we didn’t let Paige wear nail polish?”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s the school that doesn’t allow nail polish. Which is all the more reason for her to want it. But it can’t go in the collection. There was a very specific list. Practical things.” Socks, phone cards, notebooks. Clothing in plus sizes. All of it to be donated to our sister school in the Bronx.

“So what are you going to do? Toss it in the trash in the ladies’ room?”

James could only ask such a question because he never had to deal with dilemmas like this. To him it was amusing.

But I had an even better solution. I simply left the nail polish in the Uber, a black Escalade so new it smelled like the showroom floor. Maybe the next rider would have a creative idea for it. Or a young niece. No longer my problem, at any rate.

Our driver dropped us off around the corner from the school on Madison Avenue; the street in front of Graylon was as crowded as any weekday pickup. The evening’s highlight was the play, but there was also the sister school collection and a silent auction. Graylon Academy never missed an opportunity to squeeze a few bucks from the parents on top of the fifty thousand dollars per child we paid for tuition every year. Missing these events did not go unnoticed. Few parents dared risk it.

“Jesus,” James said, surveying the line to check in, snaking out through the open doors from the lobby. I could make out Hollis Graves at the desk, flipping through her spreadsheets, checking people’s names off the list.

“Yes, well, welcome to my life.” I shouldn’t have said it. It was petty and not even accurate. It was true that I served on a lot of school committees and put in a ton of volunteer time, but many of my duties were fairly pleasant, involving lots of wine-­drenched “planning” lunches. And I’d learned to avoid the worst tasks—­you wouldn’t find me sitting at a desk checking off names under the glare of all these parents’ impatience.

We stood in line, not speaking. Behind us were Emery Souza and her mother-­in-­law. I said a perfunctory hello, but things had been cool between me and Emery since she ran against me for treasurer in the PTA election two years ago and won.

When we finally reached the sign-­in table, I was ready. “You’re such a trouper to do this, especially all by yourself.”

Hollis gave me a thin smile. “Poppy was supposed to be helping me, but apparently she threw her back out.”

“Oh dear,” I said, already turning away. “Oh look, James, let’s check out the silent auction.”

These auctions, as you can probably guess, are tedious. The amount of effort that goes into them hardly justifies the return, or the annoyance of having to lug home whatever prize you accidentally overbid for. Last year, I bid three hundred dollars on a Nambé platter, never imagining I’d win. I offered it to Benilda, who said she didn’t have room for it, and it went directly into the Goodwill box.

But you have to bid on something. Several somethings, really, if you want to show you’re a team player. And occasionally there are amazing lots, like a weekend at someone’s place in Aspen, which was literally next door to Jessica Biel’s. It ended up going for over twenty thousand dollars.

We strolled along the raffle table with the other parents, more relaxed now that the onus to make conversation was off. James was not at his finest at school events, where he tended to be testy and restless. I bid a hundred dollars on a manicure at Bliss, and another two hundred on a miniature Graylon Academy uniform for an American Girl doll.

Then I saw a frilled and bow-­tied basket with a vaguely familiar red and orange logo on the card. two personal spinning sessions at FLAME! the hand-­lettered sign read, and I realized where I’d seen that logo before: a boutique gym had popped up a few months ago in a basement retail space on Eighty-­fourth Street off Lexington Avenue that was once occupied by a video rental store. spinning * boxing * hiit * mindfulness, the sign out front promised, and I’d been intrigued by the clientele I’d seen coming and going whenever I walked by: firefighters from the station down the street, students, artsy types, merchants, waiters, cops. Everyone, it seemed, but people like me and my friends.

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That's What Frenemies Are For: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
3900980 2 days ago
Julia Summers is a super wealthy mom of two who, with her gorgeous husband who adores her live on the Upper East Side where Julia's motto is the more it costs the better! Her lifestyle and status make her the envy of the mom's who are beneath her at the very private school her children attend. She can choose to speak to you while other's look on enviously, or she can blow you off...her choice. She is A list and her friends at the school are all A list as well. She is invited to only the premiere events and fundraisers. She has a nanny/housekeeper for the family. Julia lives in a perfect bubble of a world. But when their Hampton home floods just prior to the summer season and they have to stay in "the city", Julia decides to take on a project. Tatum, who is a mousy, shy spin instructor at Flame, an unknown small gym, intrigues her. She decides to remake her. Sort of as her protégé. But the naïve protégé may not be exactly who she seems. Soon, Julia finds most of her "cool" friends fawning all over Tatum. Then they begin to distance themselves from her and she sees her status begin to go from A to B to... what is happening? Then Julia's husband is arrested and jailed. Julia is not only ostracized from her group, but she is being replaced by women who were much lower on her grade level. And now her husband is in the news...and not in a good way! But as in most cases when you hit rock bottom, you begin to realize just who your real friends are, some who you never thought would ever give YOU the time of day. You also begin to see what is really important in your life and the lives of your family. Your priorities begin to change...but you still must watch out for your frenemies. This was a funny hard to read novel. By that I mean as the reader, you see Julia's mistakes coming and all you want to do is tell her to stop! But you can't, and all you can do is let her make the mistakes...and she does! Then you hope she will learn...
Bookish_Anki 6 days ago
A great summer read Thank you Random House for sending me the ARC of this book. I finished reading That’s What Frenemies Are For few hours back & it’s a 4 star. I enjoyed it thoroughly. A perfect light summer read is what I needed this week. Julia Summer even though she has it all from a good family to a beautiful apartment yet she spends so much time & energy concerning herself with what others in her social circle think about her, trying hard to be the shining start to gain influence over them with her little project with her spin instructor Tatum. So when things don’t go as she had thought it would, all her planning quickly turns into a nightmare and in addition her husband James is also caught up with legal stuff that’s when the story gets very interesting. All her friends were so mean and I felt so bad for Julia when the cards start falling and she has to decide whether she should bother about others or take care of her family, will she realize what is actually important? I love reading such books which have something riveting to look forward to with every turning page. If you are looking for a light refreshing read then you should add this to your TBR
Momma_Becky 11 days ago
Let me start by saying that I usually like chick lit. Especially when it's witty and sharp, so I dove into this one hoping for an entertaining read. I mean, come on, it has the potential. The blurb sounded so promising, so I dove in, and it didn't take long for me to be ready to dive right back out. Don't get me wrong, the book does have its moments. I even chuckled a time or two. But - oh, yes, there's a but - I didn't find a single likable character in the bunch, and I couldn't relate to any of them. It's a whole lot of gossip and one-upsmanship, and a bunch of women who seem to care only about social status. Quite possibly, and most probably, this is just not the book for me. In fact, if you enjoy shows like Desperate Housewives, then you'll probably like this one more than I did. For me, it just felt like an incredibly long book that took a long time to get through.
Jypsylynn 13 days ago
That's What Frenemies Are For is a fun read. I would not want to be Julia living such a shallow existence. If it's too perfect, it's not real-that goes for people and things. Truth is freedom. I found this story funny, relatable and intelligent. The characters were charming, ridiculous and lively. I just enjoyed reading something light and easy for a change. It's a journey through high society that shows the lifestyle for what it truly is, rather than the typical facade. Women know-frenemies are real. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 16 days ago
This chick-lit novel is about Julia who lives on the Upper East Side with her successful husband and her 2 children. She enjoys being the trendsetter amongst her friends but is starting to feel like her status is slipping. When she is stuck in the city instead of spending the summer in the Hamptons with her friends she sets out to discover something new that will put her back on top with her friends. She discovers a gym called Flame and decides to make it her new project. Things seem to be going well but then her husband is arrested for fraud and everything starts to fall apart. Julia learns what is important in life and discovers who are her real friends. A great read.
Anonymous 16 days ago
I just finished reading That’s What Frenemies Are For by Littlefield and Gershell. I was concerned that having two authors would lead to a choppy story, but that didn’t happen. The characters were well drawn, the pacing good, story well written. I just really didn’t like the main character, Julia. Julia is an upper Manhattan mother who is very concerned about staying on top of the social heap. She “discovers” a spin instructor that she decides will be her lastest project and will give her social cache, instead she creates a monster. As Julia’s careful plans spin out of control she hardly notices that the important things in her life are also in jeopardy. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read this arc.
ADonovan 19 days ago
Right when Julia's picture perfect Manhattan life starts unraveling, she meets Tatum and decides to make her a project for the summer. Tatum's spin classes help Julia get back into the best shape of her life, and Julia's style, design, and personal branding info seem to help Tatum start transforming into the life she had dreamed of. Except Tatum isn't really who she seems, and Julia's husband has been hiding truths about his business situation. Told entirely from Julia's point of view, I enjoyed watching her reevaluate the relationships she had with friends, her husband, her kids, and what was truly important in her life. The book was interesting and a fairly quick read. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
IrishEyes430 19 days ago
Keeping up the lifestyle on the Upper East Side is most important to Julia and her friends. But when Julia’s life starts crashing down around her, she must figure out how to keep up the pretense of her “perfect” life. Her main goal is to discover the next new trend that will make her the envy of all of her friends. Keeping the secret is much more difficult than she anticipated. This is an insightful look at how shallow friendships and lifestyles seem much more important than they really are. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, this book is a great summer read.
Alfoster 20 days ago
I had a love/hate relationship with this book; which is to say I HATED that I LOVED it! My favorite line "if people gossip to you, they will gossip about you" we all know is true. That being said, it's ironic that I found myself judging protagonist Julia as she is a socialite in the "inner circle" whose life revolves around judging others. So when the new boutique gym, Flame opens and she meets Tatum, the young impressionable spin instructor, she sees an opportunity for herself: mold the girl in her own image and build the clientele. Of course her goal is selfish; SHE will gain the accolades as all of her friends will lavish praise on her for being the first to discover the newest thing in town. This is a little like Mean Girls on steroids; you will laugh, you will cringe, you will judge (for really none of these characters is likable). But that's the point and Littlefield and Gershell nailed it. For of course Julia's plan backfires and some very tragic and some humorous events ensue. You don't have to like them to like this book; just make sure you don't become them! A great summer read! Out the end of July. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
EKB13 21 days ago
This was a great summer read for me! I finished it in about 3 nights and it was just what I was looking for in the midst of all the suspense and thriller books I have been reading. It reminded me of an adult version of "Gossip Girl" complete with NYC as the backdrop, too much money, a makeover and everything turning upside down for our heroine! Gave me some good laughs and was just a fun read. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
beachandbookgirl 21 days ago
I was all ready for a laugh out loud story about a well to-do upper east side mom and her new best friend, her spin instructor. Boy was I wrong! This story had bit of humor but was more heavy on the dramedy. The main character tries to stay relevant with all her "friends" at the elementary school and thinks by befriending a out of luck spin instructor and molding her into the next best thing, her status as one of the top dogs will remain. The story definitely shows the fickleness of friends and really who your real ones are.
MKF 21 days ago
Fun! Seriously, fun. And funny. This is a wonderful send up of those who want to be in control and be "influencers" but are, honestly, quite tone deaf. Julia thinks she can remake Tatum, a spin instructor into someone and something that will do her credit (because it's all about Julia). Not happening. There are a few serious twists here that I didn't see coming (no spoilers!) and which will keep you turning the pages. Julia is self absorbed and when things go off the rails for her because of her husband, she doesn't initially realize what the impact will be on her. AND, she has to figure out how to retool herself. There's a little serious undercurrent here that will make you think about the faces we show each other and how we treat others which elevates this beyond the fluff. Thanks to net galley for the ARC. A perfect beach book but also just a plain old good read.