Book Review: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

Read ThisBefore the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still…), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect… or so she thinks.

What happens when you think something terrible has occurred, but you can’t be sure? What happens when you can’t remember? What happens when you can’t forget?

What happens when someone takes everything from you?

This book doesn’t have all the answers, but it sure does come close.

Sid felt so incredibly real – her reactions, her motivations, her skewed understandings all made sense the way that Sid thought and felt them. They made sense to her (most of the time), and so it was easy to see why she did(n’t) do what she did.

I found the first part of the book utterly harrowing. As Sid slowly came to realise what had happened to her, I literally had to take breaks from reading: tear myself away from the words on the page and take a deep breath. It has that much of an impact.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5!

In some ways, I think that Sid’s lack of memory was the worst part of what happened to her. For with the lack of memory came uncertainty: was she sure? Could she ever be 100% sure that things had really happened the way she thought?

Sid doesn’t even use the word ‘rape’. Not once in the first 298 pages of the novel – well at least I think she doesn’t. Because when that word appeared on page 299, it jolted me. I was sure that she had never once thought that word before, and it was fitting that it was at the very end of the book that she finally thought it. Because I think it takes her that long to truly come to accept what has happened to her, and to own it for herself.

This is a hard novel. It isn’t a novel about healing. It is a novel about the downward spiral into sickness and about pushing yourself too far physically in order to distract yourself from the mental pain.

The healing comes after. The healing is what happens next.

what_happens_nextI particularly liked how this was a book where the main character had experienced a traumatic event, but that event didn’t take control of her life. Yes, it had an effect on her life. It changed her in a million different ways, but this book was not about the assault. Clayton didn’t allow the assault to become a character in itself, but forced it to remain what it was: a catalyst for change, for drama, for growth. In doing so, she gives her readers hope. It gives me hope that anything can be overcome – things and events may change us, and it may be difficult, but there is always hope for growth.

The characters were amazing. Sid was just brilliantly written – she was such a quintessential sixteen year old girl (concerned with popularity, friends and image), but she was so much more than that. She was feisty yet sweet. She was hurting yet determined to move through the pain. I loved her. I felt her pain, her heartache, her fear and her hope – and I dare you not to feel the same!

Corey was dreamy without being cloyingly sweet, he had his own issues but they never became a plot point, merely serving to give him extra dimensionality, and to further develop his relationship with Sid. As a romantic love interest, I think Corey was one of the better ones I have encountered in YA literature over the last few years. Involved yet not overbearing, strong yet also flawed, in love but not restricting. Corey definitely got my thumbs up!

The secondary characters (Katherine, Liam, Kirsten, Paige) all had enough dimensionality to be interesting and to form a fantastic supporting cast, but they didn’t come off as too contrived, their personal plot lines did not detract from Sid’s story and personal development. At first I didn’t like the way Sid fell out with Kirsten and Paige. It seemed too contrived. Who falls out with their best friends over something so trivial, so minor (especially compared to what really happened)? And then I remembered, I did. When I was sixteen that was exactly what my friends and I did. We fell out over the smallest things and always seemed to forgive each other in a heartbeat. That’s just what sixteen year olds do. And the fact that Clayton understands this and can bring it to life so clearly (and without too much drama!) just demonstrates what a superb job I think she did with this novel.

Overall, I loved this novel. (Which is hard to say when you’re talking about a book that features date rape and eating disorders, but I did.) This was sensitively written, engaging and captivating. I would not hesitate to recommend it to older YA readers (probably 16 and above), and I do not hesitate to recommend it to you! If you read no other YA ‘issues fiction’ this year, at least read this one.

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2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Ranting, Reading, YA Books

2 responses to “Book Review: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

  1. ej2birches

    Great review – I’ll have to add this book to my ‘to read’ pile!

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