There are no spoilers in this review.
Some of Stokes’ books have been on my TBR for a little while now. When my lovely sister offered me this book for my birthday, I was overjoyed to finally be able to read one of her books. Strangely enough, that one wasn’t one on my TBR and if you ask me why, I would tell you, I have absolutely no IDEA. I read the synopsis and was already like “this is SO COOL”, how come I’m not reading this right this second?!
My first impression was right. Despite dealing with some heavy themes, This is how it happened was a book that took me by surprise. It had me smiling, it had me feeling things and you all know how I love when that happens.
A CONTEMPORARY WITH TOUGH SUBJECTS
“I’ve read so many stories online about how tragedy brings people together, how hard times encourage bravery and sacrifice, how a crisis can turn ordinary folks into heroes…”
This is How it Happened deals with the aftermath of a car accident. Genevieve wakes up in a hospital, with no memory of what happened. Her boyfriend, a YouTube sensation, died. The other driver they collided with is being bullied online. At first sight, this book doesn’t seem like an easy read; yet it surprised me. Paula Stokes managed to deal with important, harsh issues, at times, yet she balanced it with sweet, adorable moments and times to make you smile.
“…But what about the opposite, when something horrible happens and it strips us bare, exposing weaknesses we didn’t even know we had. What about when tragedy makes people worse?”
Divided between the actual stories and online press articles and tweets, This Is How It Happened explored the power of online media, of the way just a couple tweets and articles can ruin lives, change what people think and so on. It dealt with online shaming, the way social media and rumors can spread, how harsh online bullying can be and how quickly things can escalate from there. This book also managed to talk about other issues such as impaired driving, issues that are so important and were really well-dealt with and researched by the author, something I really appreciated.
GREAT CHARACTERS & A+ FAMILY DYNAMICS
Obviously, since this is a contemporary novel, characters in this story mattered a whole lot. Genevieve, the main character, was someone I sympathized with right from the first pages. As she discovered her boyfriend did not survive, as she tries and deals with her memories and tries to figure out what, exactly, happened that night of the accident… Everything she did and the way she reacted were obviously flawed, at times and questionable, yet she felt very realistic, which made me love her even more. I rooted for her from the very beginning, as she discovered her memories back and dealt with everything that happened. Most of it all, I wanted her to be okay again.
“My heart starts pounding. Images flicker through my brain: flashing lights, smoke, blood. But is any of it real? I’m not sure.”
Aside from the main character, Paula Stokes manages to create interesting family dynamics in this book, woven into the storyline really smoothly. Genevieve’s relationship with her mother, but most importantly with her father and new stepmother she barely knows, manages to evolve after the accident, as she moves in with them for a little while, trying to get away, trying to get some solace. We follow new family dynamics and reconnection between new and old family members, which was really endearing to read.
Each side character in this story, from the friends she has back home, to the friends she meets in Utah, where her father lives, was really fleshed-out, giving the book an interesting dimension and us the idea of knowing, picturing them all even better. With their quirks, own passions and ways of reacting, all of the characters in this novel were three-dimensional, making me even more immersed into the story.
“We can’t define people by their worst actions.”
All of the main character’s relationship in the story were realistically handled. They evolved and changed at a great pace, as they should have, from awkward first meetings to getting to know each other, to becoming friends and more. I have to give some extra appreciation to the relationship existing prior to this story, the positive f/f friendship between Genevieve and her best friend.
A LITTLE BIT OF WANDERLUST
An interesting, intriguing story, with a little bit of suspense as Genevieve slowly figures out what really happened the night of the accident… This is How It Happened surprised me by its strong relationships and its three-dimensional characters… but also by the way it made me travel. I didn’t expect to find this, at all, but when Genevieve finds herself in Utah, among the cliffs and national parks and so on – the great descriptions of the landscapes made the wanderlust in me really happy. Paula Stokes’ writing style isn’t over-flowery. It’s easy to read, yet it’s vivid and powerful, in the way it described both these landscapes and the way Genevieve felt, lost, confused, powerless or powerful, mad, happy, weak and then strong again.
I originally rated this book 4 stars on Goodreads, but I don’t really know why. As I’m writing this review, I have finished this book for a couple weeks now, yet it still stayed with me all this time. It’s one of these silent contemporaries, one you don’t expect to really blow you away, yet it does by packing tough subjects, amazing characters and great settings you can’t quite forget. Heavily recommended.
Final rating: It’s a hurricane!
Trigger warnings: mention of suicide attempt.
Paula Stokes, This is how it happened, Published by HarperTeen, July, 11th, 2017.
When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.
As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.
Incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully told, Paula Stokes’s story will compel readers to examine the consequences of making mistakes in a world where the internet is always watching… and judging.
Did you read This is How It Happened? Do you want to? (YOU should!)
Did you read any other books by Paula Stokes? Which one would you recommend?
What was the latest YA contemporary (or just book, any genre!) that surprised you in a positive way? Let me know in comments!