Sara and Tobey couldn’t be more different as they start their senior year in high school. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college—NYU. She sure has the grades for it, but she’s still stressing out. Tobey, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about college. He just wants to become a famous rock star, win Battle of the Bands, and tour the world with his friends. But this becomes increasingly difficult as he realizes that the other two-thirds of his band are planning on going to college. And where does that leave Tobey?
At the beginning of each year, Sarah and her friends list their goals for the school year. This year, Sarah’s goal is to find true love. And when Dave, a popular guy she’s been crushing on since he moved to their school at the end of last year, asks her out, she’s sure she’s reached her goal. But for some reason, even though she’s going out with Dave, Tobey keeps popping into her head. He’s sweet, has amazing blue eyes, and has great arms from playing guitar and working out.
And it just so happens that one of Tobey’s goals is to make Sara fall in love with him.
This review comes in 5 parts, Part One--Writing Style:
From the start of When It Happens, I loved the writing style of Susane Colasanti. The first chapter was very reminiscent of R. A. Nelson (circa Breathe My Name), in that it was random, relatable, and very much like the inside of a teenager’s mind. She writes like a teenager, using language, actions, and emotions familiar to our every day to tell the story. Tobey, Sara, and all of their friends act like students in high school, like students I’ve met.
Added to that is the fact that Colasanti can write. I mean really write. She can write with so much conviction and emotion that it puts you there in the story, rooting for the relationships, hating the teachers, feeling uncomfortable during awkward moments. This is actually some of the best YA writing I’ve come across in a while, as it doesn’t sound like an adult trying to sound like a teenager. Many can succeed in making the character sound like a teenager, but there’s also that little bit that sounds like an adult pretending to be a teen. Only some, however, can master the art of a full-fledged teenaged narrator (R. A. Nelson, Sarah Dessen, Maureen Johnson, and now Susane Colasanti). Welcome to the ranks of amazing YA authors, Mrs. Colasanti.
Part Two—Character Development:
When It Happens began as if you’d known the characters forever and were just being reintroduced. They didn’t bore you with tedious introductions, but at the same time, you learned the story of every single one of the characters, main and minor. You learned about each girl’s family and history. In just the first chapter you learn so much about Sara’s friends as they tell each other their goals for the year, an annual ritual they do before school starts. Also, the book isn’t just about Sara and Tobey. Their best friends also go through some things. Maggie’s parents separate, and Laila falls for one of Tobey’s friends—no matter how much she denies it, it’s true. All the characters are dynamic and depicted really well.
The plot of When It Happens is just as believable as the characters. I don’t want to give away anything, but I will tell you this: events like these are sure to happen in real life. Nothing unrealistic or exaggerated happens to these characters. They go through their senior year like any other students, the fall in love like any other teenagers, and they experience some rough times like any other person.
Part Four—Font/Changing POV:
A very unique characteristic of this book is that it was written in both points of view, Sarah’s and Tobey’s. Every other chapter was Sarah, and the rest were Tobey. I, personally, enjoy books that give both sides of the story because then both characters are loud, dynamic, and truthful. You don’t just get an impression of one or the other—you get their whole story.
And the best part about the switching POV? The fonts changed also. This was the coolest idea on behalf of Susane Colasanti or her editors. By making Sarah and Tobey have different fonts, they made it easier to keep up with who was speaking, because once you get into this book, it can be easy to just speed right through and not think about it. The different fonts made it possible to notice. Also, the different fonts added a touch of originality to the story that wasn’t there otherwise.
Part Five—My Opinions:
Personally, I couldn’t get enough of this book. Parts 1-4 can give you the best reasons why—or at least the ones I could pinpoint. Besides those things, there was something else that made me love this book so much, but I can’t figure out exactly what it was. It was just…something. Something incredible. My friends may tell you that I’m obsessed with this book (we actually just had a discussion about this a few nights ago), and maybe I am. I could read this book many times over and never get sick of it. There’s something in the depth of the characters that is alluring, something in the every day plot that is so relatable, and something in the writing that makes it re-readable.
As you can probably tell, this book comes highly recommended from me. 5 caramel macchiato espressos for this spectacular work of fiction.