Title: What Happens Next
Author: Colleen Clayton
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: Ocotber 9th 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Add to Goodreads | Purchase Amazon
How can you talk about something you can't remember?My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
When sixteen-year-old cheerleader Cassidy "Sid" Murphy ends up on a ski lift next to handsome college boy, Dax Windsor, she's thrilled; but Dax isn't what he seems. He takes everything from Sid - including a lock of her perfect red curls - and she can't remember any of it. Back home and alienated by her old friends, Sid forms an unlikely friendship with Corey "The Living Stoner" Livingston (slacker, baker, total dreamboat) and finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now if she can just shed the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so Sid thinks.
I'm not really sure what went wrong with What Happens Next. It's not a bad book, but I can't help but feel disappointed, and I'm not even sure why. I did like a lot of things in What Happens Next, but ultimately, it just left me feeling kind of underwhelmed.
A large part of why I didn't connect with this story, I think, is that I never clicked with our main character Sid. To me, Sid never seemed like a real person; she just personified a bunch of issues (the rape, her problems with her body perception, and the eating disorder that results from these). While there are a few unique things about Sid, I never felt like we got to know her apart from these issues. Especially her issues relating the way she sees herself and her body annoyed me; they didn't feel real, more like representations of what everyone going through something like this supposedly feels. I can't even explain why it felt that way to me; it just did.
There's three main relationships in this novel: the one Sid has with her family, the one between Sid and her friends, Kirsten and Paige, and the romance between Sid and Corey. And, to be honest, all of them felt kind of flat to me, too. The family just felt too picture-perfect, with the super-supportive mom and the trying-too-hard-to-be-adorable little brother. Kirsten and Paige really pissed me off in the beginning, but that storyline gets better later on, and I like the support they provide for Sid towards the end. Still, it bugged me how their abandoning Sid when she needed them was never really addressed. Corey is a pretty good character, but I'm just not a fan of the whole new-guy-swoops-in-to-save-everything storyline. I don't think Corey as a character is explored enough; for example, something comes out about him towards the end that I would have liked to go into more depth about, but we don't really get to know much about his background. In general, the characters and their reactions to Sid's situation seemed too black and white for me; they're either pissed at Sid, or completely supportive, and I would have preferred to see something in between as well, to see them process and deal with the situation as well.
That being said, there were parts of the novel I enjoyed, too. I really liked Sid's voice and Colleen Clayton's writing style; it's authentic and flows nicely. Even when I had issues with the plot and the characters, the writing pulled me along and made it easy to get lost in the story.
I also really liked seeing how Sid dealt with her trauma. Her ups and downs, and the way this affected her day-to-day life, was fascinating to read about. The ending, though, I didn't love as much; it just seemed a little too happy, too pseudo-therapeutic, and too message-driven to me.
All in all, while I did like the basic story and thought the novel had a lot of potential, many aspects of What Happens Next fell short for me. I couldn't connect with the main character, parts of it didn't feel authentic to me, and I would've liked the secondary characters to be more dynamic. Still, I don't discourage you from giving What Happens Next a try - I personally just didn't connect with the story as much as I'd hoped.