Review: This Is How It Happened, Paula Stokes

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 β€œthis 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.



β€œI’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.



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.

β€œWe 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.



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:Β  It’s a hurricane!

Trigger warnings: mention of suicide attempt.

Paula Stokes, This is how it happened, Β 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 dreadβ€”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!

Posted by

Book blogger, travel blogger, writer. πŸ“š |🌍 | πŸ’ž Writing & Communications Graduate. French. Living on love, wanderlust and ya books.

54 thoughts on “Review: This Is How It Happened, Paula Stokes

    1. It really was a great story, I hope you’ll want to read it someday, Angela! I have a feeling you could love it πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! ❀


  1. I had very similar thoughts about this book. At first, I thought it was just going to be another cliche car crash YA story, but it completely surprised me in the best way. I loved this one, and am so glad others have had similar experiences with it! I haven’t read anything else by Paula Stokes, but I totally intend to since I liked this one so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this one just as much! It was surprising, I agree, I didn’t expect it to be such a strong, deep read dealing with intense themes like that. I hope we’ll both love our other Paula Stokes’ books πŸ˜€
      Thank you so much! xx


  2. I’ve been so curious about this book, the blurb was so interesting, but you made it sound even more exciting. I’m so here for positive f/f friendships and family dynamics and I also adore unique formats that include fragments from social media or interviews or anything like that.
    Lovely review as always! πŸ’• I’ll check it out because I completely trust you! Also, my favourite contemporary author has to be Katie West (I’m so happy that she started including more diverse characters in her books, though it saddened me to hear that the rep in Lucky in Love was bad, I haven’t read it yet, hopefully she will learn from her mistakes though) or Jenny Han.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m so glad to hear it! I have a feeling you could really love this one, I hope you’ll read it someday πŸ™‚
      Oh, Kasie West and Jenny Han are amazing choices! I only read one book by Kasie West so far, but I want to read more of them – I’ve read everything by Jenny Han and I LOVE HER πŸ˜€
      Thank you so much!! xx


  3. Great review Marie, I’m so glad you enjoyed this book and that it got such an incredible rating from you as well (it’s kind of nice when you look back on a book and realise it was better than you originally rated it, most of them time when my ratings change after I’ve read a book it’s to lower them). πŸ˜€
    This is How it Happened sounds like an incredible book; the way it made you travel, the great family relationships, the positive female friendship Genevieve has, all of these things are what I love reading in books so I’ll definitely be adding this to my to-read list. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did. πŸ™‚ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so much, Beth! ❀ I agree, usually when I look back on a book and my rating, I feel like it wasn't as good as it first was when I read it. I'm glad here, it was the other way around ❀
      I hope you'll give this book a chance someday, I think you could love it πŸ˜€
      Thank you again! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay- definitely sounds like one to add to the tbr!! I just love great family dynamics and three dimensional characters. Plus contemporaries that deal with heavier themes are always tempting to me. And also packing in some wanderlust for good measure sounds brilliant. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, please add it to your endless TBR, I promise you won’t regret it πŸ˜€ It was such a great book, definitely more than just a fun contemporary. I loved it so much ❀
      Thank you!! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hahaha I did πŸ˜‰ Brilliant!! I’m so excited for this- I need to read another contemporary soon, it’s been a while and they always perk me up πŸ™‚ (or bring me down πŸ˜‰ but whatever cathartic is good πŸ˜‰ ) Brilliant ❀ You're welcome ❀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you really liked this Marie! This sounds like such a powerful read, especially since it does deal with such hard topics. The only books I’ve read by Paula Stokes were Girl Against the Universe, and The Art of Lainey, both of which I really loved and highly recommend! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh – I’m so glad you read some of Paula Stokes’books. I need to read these as soon as I can. This Is How It Happened was just so good, I want to read more from this author. ❀ I hope you'll give this one a chance sometime πŸ™‚ thank you!


    1. OH I’m so glad you love her books so much! Which one of hers is your favorite? Meaning: which one should I read next? πŸ˜€
      I so want to visit Utah now, just as well. It sounds so beautiful. ❀
      Thank you so much!! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Could not agree with your review more! I have never before felt so very IN a setting like I did in this book, especially in a contemporary! And I think she did a great job with the tough topics too. I read Liars Inc, which was actually a mystery that kept me guessing (which is rare!) and The Key to Everything, which is NA and not out yet, but I really enjoyed and will be reviewing soon! I am so glad you enjoyed this one too, such a pleasant surprise for me! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, I can’t wait to read your review for The Key To Everything, and I really want to read Liars, it sounds so good. I have a feeling all of Stokes’ books will end up being great for me πŸ˜€
      thank you so much, Shannon! ❀


  7. I have quite a few Paula Stokes novels on my TBR pile, perhaps I should just do a week of reading them all. This one has been on my radar and I am glad that you liked it and it stayed with you, that’s an excellent sign of a great novel. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve read a couple of Stokes’ books, my favourite yet is Girl Against the Universe and I haven’t actually heard of this book before? It sounds really lovely, though. I added it to my TBR.

    Also, I love your review style and your voice! I just found you through twitter and I think I’m going to really enjoy reading your posts 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhh, I have Girl Against The Universe on my TBR, I can’t wait to read it, even more knowing it’s one of your favorites πŸ˜€ What are the other books you read, by this author? πŸ™‚

      Oh thank you so much, that’s so, SO sweet of you, wow. So glad you enjoyed this post! I hope you will enjoy my other reviews/posts as well! Thank you for your sweet words again, seriously made my day ❀ ❀


      1. I’ve only read The Art of Lainey other than GATU. I liked it but it didn’t make that much of an impression on me.

        You’re welcome 😊β™₯️

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This book sounds amazing and I’m all for contemporaries that have deeper meaning. I would say They Both Die At The End because while I knew that I was going to be crying and emotional, I never imagined it would have had the impact that it did on me.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.