REVIEW TO TAKE PLACE AFTER SYNOPSIS

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader, a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid – including a lock of her perfect red curls – and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and alienated by her friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect… or so she thinks.

Humorous and thoughtful, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a moving exploration of one girl’s triumph over tragedy.

.

AND NOW THE REVIEW!

I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my career, most of them writers.  And when we talk about the Debut Novel, authors will sometimes say that, looking back, their debuts could have been better.  Some say their debuts aren’t their best work – they were still learning the ropes.  Some say it is what it is and hope to grow with every book they write, to just get better and better.  Debut Novels are tricky little birds, and sometimes they nosedive, sometimes they fly.  Colleen Clayton’s debut, What Happens next, soars.  The cadence of the language, the roundness of the characters, the humor and heart of this piece…it’s stunning.  Not only did Colleen make me laugh aloud quite a number of times, she made the tears fall too.

What Happens Next is a 300+ page YA story I read in one sitting basically because, well, I couldn’t not read it one sitting.  I HAD TO KNOW.  The narrator is Cassidy “Sid” Murphy and man, what voice and intelligence and sass she has!  As Colleen said in our interview, “flaws are good, embrace flaws.”  Sid definitely has those, which is why I loved her.  She’s 5’9, redheaded, big-mouthed and very real.  She’s completely imperfect, has a bit of a fuse, and has cynicism ingrained in her DNA.  She’s also intensely likable and a fighter and a girl who’s heart is in the right place, if not her head.

Colleen-in-Jeans-for-Twitter-2-247x300

Her situation is a dire one.  I won’t give away anything, though this is not some puzzle-box thriller.  This story unfolds in a slow free-fall sort of way.  You know the ground is coming, you know it’s not going to be pretty when you land, but it’s just too late to stop.  Sid is surrounded by friends like Kirsten and Paige and even a girl named Bethany (though I am not too impressed with a certain choice this particular Bethany made in the story *grin).  Sid is by no means popular but with her few close friends, high school is bearable.  But after a class ski trip which happens early in the narrative – where the big incident happens – it becomes anything but.  In fact, her whole life is turned upside.

Now, let me stop right here and now though because I don’t want to scare you away.  After all, it’s quite normal to think that a story about a horrible, life shattering event would be downer, but let me assure you, it’s not.  In Clayton’s more than capable hands, What Happens Next never devolves into melodrama or histrionics or Lifetime movie narcissism.  It’s no exercise in grandiosity.  But it’s also not some simple, predictable tale either.  Clayton spins quite a web with this one, and not one character comes out unscathed or unchanged…which is how it should be.

And let’s not forget the romance, because really, something needs to be said about the romance in this book.  Basically, it’s well….

Perfect.

The beginning of the relationship, the middle of it, the last few pages of it.  Corey Livingston is not your average YA dreamboat.  He’s been dealt about as bad a hand as you can deal someone and yet how he handles it, the choices he makes, are very pleasantly surprising.  Is he perfect?  No.  Is he gorgeous beyond belief?  No.  Is he very complex and real and totally sympathetic?  Yes and yes and yes.  Amen.  Clayton unfolds the relationship between Sid and Corey with wonderful ease.  She write incredible passages about their time together, like:

Corey loves kissing the back of my neck for some reason. It gives me a shiver – a good shiver.  Before the ski trip, I used to pray for a shiver like that.  I would nod and act happy when Kirsten and Paige would tell me their magic moment stories, but then I would feel miserable deep down. I thought I might never get a chance to feel that way about someone and to have someone like me back in that way. I thought no one would ever want me, looking the way I do.

I have never wanted a girl to get the guy she deserves so badly, and Colleen doesn’t disappoint.  Their moments together are in one second sweet, the next turbulent, the next heartbreaking.  Happy sigh.

If it’s true that every book gets better than the last, I really can’t wait to devour Colleen’s next…and the next…and the next.  Real, unflinching, and utterly enjoyable, this debut is a winner on every level.  What happens next with Colleen Clayton?  I truly cannot wait to find out!  (Even if she is a Brown’s fan. *grin)