09 October 2012

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

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.
When I first started into What Happens Next, I didn't know that it was a book with a strong theme of weight loss and self image running through it.  Frankly, I didn't know quite what to expect.  Certainly it wasn't the multi-dimensional main character, or the absolutely amazing romance, or the fantastic story.  Of course I wished for all those things, but I was glad when that's exactly what I got.

The main character, Sid, had her flaws.  But it was her flaws that gave her that third dimension.  She was realistic by being many different things, not just a one-sided, cardboard cutout heroine.  She was chaotic at times and had her hypocritical moments, but I felt she had a good heart because she was incredibly loyal to her brother, and family was important to her.  As were her friends, even though they weren't stellar to her.  And she was feisty!  There's a single scene that sticks out to me where Sid is particularly (and hilariously) vindictive and it makes me laugh just thinking about it.  That kind of lasting impression is the result of her awesome character.

What I loved most about the romance in What Happens Next was that it didn't get in my face.  It took a backseat to the main theme, and having an emotional theme take the spotlight was a breath of fresh air.  It also didn't carry that feeling of inevitability.  From the synopsis, it's easy to deduce that Corey "The Living Stoner" Livingston is going to be a love interest, but it wasn't presented that way in the book.  There was no insta-love.  It felt incredibly natural.  That kind of slow-growing romance let the arc of the character development shine through, so I saw how the romance shaped Sid instead of overwhelmed her.

Sid's story was amazing.  Colleen Clayton doesn't focus on the horror (which I appreciate) but rather on the aftermath -- hence the title What Happens Next.  It isn't depressing like a lot of close-to-home topics are (for example, Dreamland by Sarah Dessen or Willow by Julia Hoban) but instead it's an inspiring and hopeful story of how a teen can recover after a physical and emotional trauma.

I had a few issues with the writing style.  It was distracting in the beginning, like it took Colleen Clayton a while to find her stride.  I could see where it started to improve because the number of diamonds in the rough started to multiply exponentially.  By the end, except for a few cheesy moments, I was very impressed with the way the writing style allowed Sid's story to flow effortlessly.

A great story that would definitely appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 320
  • published - October 2012
  • publisher - Poppy
  • genre - contemporary
  • received via - Southern Book Bloggers
  • rating - 5/5