Book Review: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Cassidy, Sid to those who know and love her various other nicknames to those who don’t, has a pretty good life. She is a cheerleader, although she is not exactly a beloved member of the squad, she has a mom and brother that love her, and two amazing bffs. Her single mom has scrimped and saved to allow Sid to go on the Ski club ski trip, which is where our story begins.
When it is obvious that Sid is holding her two friends back from getting some serious slop action, she offers to stay behind on the bunny slopes – promising to meet back up with them soon. She is approached by the very charming Dax Windsor. She agrees to sneak out and go to a college party with him. She wakes up the next morning fully clothed but in his bed. All the evidence seems to suggest that she was drugged and raped, but she has no memory of what happened. The real question for Sid is, of course, What Happens Next.
The fallout from this night is immediate. When she is found missing the next morning, the authorities – and her mom – are called and all proverbial hell breaks loose. She is suspended, her two best friends reject her because of the trouble they are in for covering for her, and she now has a lot of unwanted male attention thanks to her new less than desirable reputation. And yet, Sid can’t seem to find the way to make the words come out of her mouth, the speak the truth of what happened to her.
What she can make come out, however, is food. In fact, Sid spirals into a deep emotional vortex where sitting still and sleeping are hard – too much time to think. So she takes up obsessive late night jogging. And she being binging and purging.
To avoid her ex-best friends, Sid changes her schedule and becomes the AV assistant to Corey, who has his own reputation. Over the course of the semester the two of them develop a relationship which is deeply hindered by Sid’s secret and the emotional roller coaster that comes with it until there is that final moment when, like the food she crams into her, it will no longer stay in and she must quite literally purge herself of the truth.
What Happens Next is an important, well written book with a protagonist your heart literally breaks for. The depth of her emotions are so well developed and clearly illustrated, this is not an easy read – but it is such an important one, and it is very well done.
Other things I like about this book:
- Sid has a supportive mother with a good personality
- Important topics such as bullying, body image, and family dynamics are talked about in meaningful ways that are not didactic but fully fleshed out and integrated into the story
- It has rich layers; when Corey is introduced he is presented as one thing based on his school image, but turns out to be something entirely different
- The rape occurs with no actual details being depicted on the page, but it still packs a strong emotional punch
The thing that drove me crazy about this book:
There are so many moments when Sid is slowly losing everything one by one and you are screaming, just tell someone what happened. BUT, and this is a very important but, this is so true to life and realistic and done well . . .
At the end of the day, you can pair this with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney for a look at rape in various forms. You can also pair this with The Downside of Being Charlie, which shows a male protagonist dealing with bulimia, for a good look at eating disorders and the emotions behind them.
What happens next will be published in October of 2012 by Poppy and I give it 4 out of 5 stars for delivering powerful emotions and a good dash of hope.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
SLJ Blog Network