Genre: Contemporary YA
Publication Date: 10/9/12
Source: Received from publisher for review.
How can you talk about something you can’t remember?Sometimes... we all come across a book that speaks to us, maybe a bit too loudly. A book that strikes a forgotten (or well-ignored) nerve. What Happens Next has unnerved me. As a teenager, I had a lot in common with Sid Murphy. I know what it is like to be fourteen years old and have grown men hitting on you. To feel uncomfortable in your own body. And though I didn't experience what Sid goes through in this story, I have been almost assaulted (if mildly assaulted exists). And it sucks. So needless to say, I am sitting here with a lot of overwhelming emotions, and not quite sure what to do with them. So I'm doing my best to compartmentalize my personal issues, keep them separate from the review. But I really don't think that is entirely possible.
Before 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 “The Living Stoner” 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.
Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a story about moving on after the unthinkable happens.
Honestly? Remaining detached and objective is so, so difficult when you read a book like What Happens Next. Colleen Clayton did a phenomenal job of making her Sid into a character that is so real, so utterly, heartbreakingly alive. Tall, well-developed, looks years older than she is:
"The summer I turned eleven, I was attacked by mutant hormones. They invaded my body and sent all the baby fat in my belly, limbs, and face screaming directly into my boobs, hips, and ass. I filled out so fast, I actually got stretch marks. The boys my own age either dove for cover or sat around thinking of funny tit names to call me. But I'd get all kinds of lusty looks from older guys- teachers, coaches, neighbors, old farts in grocery stores."
Sid has been defined by her striking features her whole life. She doesn't feel safe or comfortable in her own body. When she is sexually assaulted, with no memory of the event, Sid withdraws. She loses her best friends, her cheerleading, her voice. The only bright spot is Corey Livingston, the school stoner, who slowly becomes Sid's only true friend. Hoping to not attract attention to her body, Sid determines to take control and change it by running, starving, purging. But no matter how hard she tries, the truth won't stay away forever.
Now at this point, some people begin to wonder: Why doesn't Sid ask for help? Why doesn't she tell someone what happened to her? I came across a few reviews that stated those questions and it is so upsetting, and condescending, to me, when I see that frustration stated in a review. The answer is staggeringly simple: Sid is a sixteen year old girl who got drugged and raped. She is scared. Scared of the questions, the accusations, the implications. She is scared of the pain in her mother's eyes, the pity on the faces of her friends, the scorn of those who think she was asking for it. Any of us, as adults, can sit back and pontificate on what the proper course of action would have been; it makes us feel wise, right? But when you are a sixteen year old girl and your body has been used as some asshole's blow-up doll, you're hours away from home, and you can't even give a proper explanation...well, excuse me, but that may call for some understanding, not judgment. It honestly terrifies and saddens me to think that someone may treat a person in their life the same way they treat the characters in books.
Maybe I've brought to much of my own thoughts to this review and I'm okay with that. Each person has their own life experiences that impact their reading experience. These are mine.
What Happens Next is a book that should be handed out to every single teenager everywhere. Boys can learn what it is like to be a girl, objectified every day by careless comments. They can also learn to be a "Corey", seriously one of the best book boys ever. Every girl should read through Sid's experience and learn that it is okay to be scared, but it is also okay to tell. They can learn empathy for other girls, and most importantly: No matter what or how it happenes, being violated is never, ever your fault.
What Happens Next is a life-changing book. The emotional impact was so honest, so overwhelming, that I almost couldn't bear it, at times. It is a book that can prompt discussion, teach, open doors. I am so completely grateful that I had the opportunity to read it. I appreciate Poppy who brought it to the readers. I thank, from the very bottom of my heart, author Colleen Clayton for writing such a remarkable story of a girl who can change lives.
"I spin around and it makes me dizzy and I feel like I'm high. My face is about to break in half from smiling. Then I look over at Corey, who is watching me with a tenderness that makes me want to crawl inside his heart, pitch a tent, and set up camp forever."
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