book review of what happens next by Colleen Clayton, books about rape and victimization of high school girl

Magan: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

book review of what happens next by Colleen Clayton, books about rape and victimization of high school girlWhat Happens Next by Colleen Clayton [website | twitter]
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 320
Keywords: rape and victimization, eating disorders, control
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Format read: ARC from Little, Brown at ALA (Thanks!)

Summary: Sid wakes up on her junior class ski trip not remembering the details of the night before when she was supposed to meet up with an older guy at a party; her friends tried to cover for her, but everything implodes. Sid cannot clarify the details because she doesn’t remember what happened.

Sid is a girl who has two good best friends but remains boyfriendless. On her junior class ski trip, she’s suffering from a case of beginner woes and hangs back at the bunny slopes while her friends move onto more dangerous adventures. She’s paired with a flirty, cute guy named Dax on a ski lift who makes her feel attractive. Though it’s against the rules, when he invites her to a party, she sneaks out to meet up with him. She goes alone because her friends don’t want to risk getting caught.

When she arrives to the “party,” she finds Dax, alone. This is the point where my stomach bottomed out and I knew bad things were about to happen. Time fast forwards and we don’t have a clear picture of what happened, but two things are sure: a) Sid is missing a lock of hair, and b) she’s been raped. When she returns to the ski resort, she’s in major trouble and her friends are infuriated with her.

Back at school, Sid is socially rejected (adios cheerleading squad) and her best friends block her out of their lives. Sid feels conflicted; she’s unsure of what to tell her friends so she disconnects from them by swapping out of classes they’re in. She meets a stoner boy, Corey, when she’s assigned to work on the Audio Visual (AV) team with him. Everyone has this idea of who Corey is and thinks he’s just a slacker, but while Sid is in isolation, she gets to know the truth about this mysterious boy.

Their relationship is very subtle and quiet. It begins with a lot of back and forth banter that proves what a strong and witty character Sid is. Corey reveals there is a lot more to him than what people think. Sid finds out that he works at a bakery. They begin having secret meet-ups there in the wee hours of the morning, where they talk while he works. Corey fills this role, this void, that’s left in Sid’s life because she has no other friends, no one else to talk to. Even though she distanced herself from everyone else, she realizes she needs this kind and respectful boy in her life.

Not all of What Happens Next is easy to digest or quite as enjoyable as Sid’s blossoming relationship. Clayton does an impeccable job of developing a very real depiction of what happens when a girl is victimized. Everything in Sid’s life has spiraled out of control: she has something ripped away from her without her consent, loses her best friends and her place on the squad, and finds herself very alone. She realizes the one thing she can control is what she eats and how she looks. She begins eating less and running more, with occasional binges thrown into the mix. Even though Sid is a smart girl who should have known to tell someone what happened to her, she didn’t know how. She feels like an idiot who fell for a big joke, like what happened was all her fault. Sid loses faith in herself and her anger manifests itself as an eating disorder. She used this to gain control back, but her decision-making skills were sometimes maddening (very true to form for a high schooler).

I had knots in my stomach while I waited for everyone to find out the truth. I waited patiently for the explosion. The anticipation was high, as was the emotional connection to the characters. Sometimes a smart girl doesn’t always make the best decisions, and we need a support group of people to put the pieces of our lives back together again. Sometimes that support group consists of the last boy you would have ever expected.

It’s not often that I compare books, but if you’re a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak or Tammara Webber’s Easy, you should consider picking up What Happens Next. Clayton’s depiction of rape and victimization is difficult, but very well written and very much worth the read.

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19 thoughts on “Magan: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

  1. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    Magan, I know we’ve already talked in length about this book, but I still wanted to read your thoughts again on it. You’ve summed it up quite well. I had a difficult time digesting Sid’s decisions, or lack of decisions I should say, and that really got to me while reading. However, with your help, I was able to see past that and really focus on the story as a whole. Though the ending came a bit too quickly for me, I still enjoyed the message it sent out.

  2. Cynthia says:

    This sounds like an emotional one but one that was written very well and I do love Laurie Halse Anderson’s book so it’s definitely going on my list. Thanks for the great review!

  3. Lori says:

    I kept thinking while I was reading your review that this reminds me of Speak. I love that book. I first read it in middle school and then reread it often for years after that. I hadn’t paid much attention to this one before, but now I’m really anxious to read it.

  4. April Books & Wine says:

    Somehow I thought this was a dystopian book, lololol. OBVIOUSLY I was very wrong and am glad I haven’t read What Happens Next yet, because otherwise that would be an awkward surprise. I do have to say, your review makes me want to read it very very soon, especially because I can review this for work newsletter.

  5. elena says:

    i had my stomach in knots just reading your review. 😐 it sounds like a difficult but well done book. however, i don’t think i will be reading it because i just can’t handle books dealing with rape. this is a really insightful and intense review!

  6. VeganYANerds says:

    The moment you talked about Sid turning up to find him alone I felt so sick and worried and now I just have to read this. I like that you compared it to Speak, that is another subtle, serious book.

    Wonderful review, Magan!

  7. Tara says:

    Magan, this was such a well-rounded, eloquent review! I just got this book and you have made me want to bump it up on the list. As odd as this sounds, I really enjoy books that deal with personal struggle and overcoming tragic events and What Happens Next seems to fit this perfectly.

  8. Jamie says:

    To be honest, I wasn’t interested in this one before. But now, DONE, I’m going to read it. Sounds like a very emotional read! And I’m curious, based on Ginger’s comment to you, if I will feel hung up on some of her decisions. I’ll have to discuss with you when I read it!

  9. Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books says:

    First of all, I absolutely LOVE your review. I think you definitely highlighted a lot of things that could possibly appeal to me about the book, as well as sharing about the tough issue this book covered.

    I’m very interested in seeing what happens to the characters and their relationship. It’s always intriguing to read a book about tough stuff like this, and seeing how people handle these things.

  10. Asheley (@BookwormAsheley) says:

    Oh wow, great review! I hadn’t heard of this book before now but it sounds like one I think I might enjoy, even though it would be maybe a little tough to read.

    I just read Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt and although it isn’t EXACTLY the same, I felt a little bit the same way you did with regard to some of the MC’s decision-making. I think THAT – the fact that I just read and enjoyed Uses For Boys and it has that similarity to this one – is what draws me to read What Happens Next. I’m not even sure that makes any sense. At any rate, great review and thank you for bringing this one to my attention.

  11. Kristen Evey says:

    Adding this one to my TBR list. I’m very wary of books that deal with rape, so I usually base which ones I read on recommendations. This one sounds like it’s done right. It’s not a book that I’m always in the mood for, but there are times. Thanks Magan.

  12. April Books & Wine says:

    So, I came back to comment on this AGAIN, like a total weirdo because I was googling for reviews to link and yours came up and I am like THIS REVIEW is the reason I wanted to read What Happens Next in the first place. And now, on re-reading your review I just agree with everything. I loved how Clayton portrays Sid’s victimization and what happens after. I actually gave you guys this quote link at the bottom – “Clayton does an impeccable job of developing a very real depiction of what happens when a girl is victimized.” because I could not agree more.

    Anyways, just coming back to say, post-reading, this review is incredibly accurate and I am glad I took you up on your advice to READ THIS NOW, even if it was a few months later.

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