When It Happens – Susane Colasanti


Reminiscent of the movie Say Anything, a debut novel for all those searching for The One!

Sara and Tobey couldn’t be more different. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college; he wants to win Battle of the Bands. Sara’s other goal is to find true love, so when Dave, a popular jock, asks her out, she’s thrilled. But then there’s Tobey. His amazing blue eyes and quirky wit always creep into her thoughts. It just so happens that one of Tobey’s goals is also to make Sara fall in love with him. Told in alternating points of view, Sara and Tobey’s real connection will have everyone rooting for them from the minute they meet!


So, as you can see, I’m changing around my policy a little. Instead of sticking just to character profiles and life lessons learned from fictitious people, I’m going to start actually reviewing the books I read – plotlines and all! – and then getting to the characters if and when I feel like it. Tell me what you think of it!

I randomly picked When It Happens to start my reviews with, because that’s simply how I got hold of it. I plucked this off a friend’s bookshelf without thinking, and I’m really glad I did.

What I love most about this book is the voice. It’s told from the points of view of both Sara and Tobey, and the author has captured the teenage voice beautifully. My favorite thing about the way they speak is the questioning clause. Now, what, you may ask, in the WORLD is a questioning clause? Well, I’ll tell you. Have you ever heard teenagers converse in sarcasm and/or give one another reality checks? It sounds a little bit like this:

“Okay.” Laila says. “For the last and final time? Jake Gyllenhaal? Is not your boyfriend.”

Or like this:

“Hey. Dude? Chill.” Something in Mike’s voice makes Josh actually shut up and eat his lunch.

You see what she did there? That incomplete question thing in the middle of a sentence? That’s a questioning clause, and it’s something that’s found almost exclusively in teen-speak. Susane’s been very clever in picking that up, because this exact grammatical representation is something I haven’t found in any YA books to date, and it made the characters’ dialogue and their issues all the more real to me. You go, Susane! The grammar nazi in me is proud.

In fact, even beyond the questioning clause, these people talk almost entirely like my friends and I always have. I’m sure everyone would feel that way reading this, but to me, it’s ridiculously eerie, because it feels like someone lifted our conversations entirely into a published book. For instance:

Laila goes, “Could Mr. Perry be a bigger asshole?”

“I know!” He actually gave us a pop quiz today in calc, and it’s only the third day of school. Who does that? “And then he acts all shocked when no one’s ready? Please.”

I swear to God, that sounds like a direct quote from… um, let’s see, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY HIGH SCHOOL CONVERSATIONS? With names changed of course. It’s a pretty common conversation, but still… Fortunately, it wasn’t all exactly like what we said to each oth-

“I can’t believe you thought I liked him,” Maggie huffs. “Jeez.”

“That’s why I was like . . .” I make a repulsed face.



Another one of my favorite things about the book was that it transported me straight into a world I feel comfortable in, particularly in relation to popular media. It mentions music I adore (and actually recognize – a rare feature in a YA novel, most of which are out to make me feel older than I probably am), like Bryan Adams. REM. The Cure. The Shins. James Taylor. Led Zeppelin. John Mayer. Dave Matthews. Even Evanescence and acoustic Maroon 5 tracks. Then the all-time classic movies that I still curl up to once in a while. Say Anything. Crazy/Beautiful. The Good Girl. Can’t Buy Me Love. Seriously, I was in pop culture heaven on every page of the book. Score!

But at the heart of it all, this is a love story as well as a coming-of-age story. Sara and Tobey’s relationship progresses through all the regular stages of young love, though with a surprising amount of restraint and subtlety, despite the look we get into their heads. It’s neither obsessive, nor sickly sweet, but just a happy be-true-to-yourself tale that chronicles a senior year of high school in all its glory. The new beginnings, the sad goodbyes, the transition from cluelessness to adulthood… the simple concept that when you’re in high school, you think you have it all figured out. Until it hits you that you have no idea.

When It Happens is recommended for anyone and everyone who is in high school, remembers high school and/or would like to erase their traumatic memories of high school and project these fantasies instead. It’s bittersweet, if a little simplistic, but sometimes that’s what you need most.

Rating: 4/5 crowns

School is eternal. Too bad Einstein’s dead. I’m sure he would have appreciated my latest discovery within the space-time continuum. The closer you are to experiencing a monumental event, the longer time stretches out. It makes you feel alone.


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