This book gets: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton – It’s really hard to write good contemporary YA–and it’s even harder for me to like it. I mean this in the kindest possible way. Especially when addressing the big issues like rape and eating disorders, it’s easy for authors to preach. It’s easy for their characters, as a result, to sound flat or forced; but Clayton effortlessly dodges the trap.
Cassidy “Sid” Murphy is a straight-A cheerleader–until she meets a handsome stranger on a school ski trip. That night, Dax Windsor invites her inside, and afterwards, she can remember nothing; but she knows Dax has taken something from her. Something she can never get back.
What Happens Next is a chronicle of what comes after: the severed friendships, the nightmares, the obsessing. But also the healing; the downward spiral as well as the upward in a richly-patterned tapestry of teenager life, punctuated by the memory of something horrible and the ripple effects it has on Sid’s life.
Clayton writes it all with a distinct flair. Sid narrates her story with appreciable wit; she is so understandable, so relatable, even at her lowest. Her friends are like the friends I remember having: real people, not two-dimensional caricatures we so often see in contemporary YA friend-groups. Not to mention Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston! Finally–some contemporary YA free from alpha males. I couldn’t get enough of him, with all his baking and laid-back dreaminess.
Of course, there are the elephants in the room. The date-rape. Clayton authoritatively writes the complex circle of reasoning that leads Sid to bulimia; the total un-logic that can drive a girl to hide what has happened to her, to live a lie, until that lie starts to eat her up inside. Clayton writes it with humor and spice and everything nice, while never leaving out the nitty gritty.
More importantly, while never preaching.
Read this book, and rock on.