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What Happens Next

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

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), 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 unable to relate to her old 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.

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a story about moving on after the unthinkable happens.

310 pages, Hardcover

First published October 9, 2012

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About the author

Colleen Clayton

2 books291 followers
Before she became a writer, Colleen was a social worker for teens in a residential treatment center. She holds an MFA from the NEOMFA and her Kirkus-starred young adult novel WHAT HAPPENS NEXT was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award. Her latest novel is titled DOLL HEARTS and releases on April 24th, 2018.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 687 reviews
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,357 followers
November 7, 2012
Rarely have I read a book about rape that was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. What Happens Next will leave an impression in my heart for a long time. I feel like I went through this journey with Sid. Through her fears and worries from being a victim of an act that will forever leave a scar. I felt for her through every page. Every last one.

Even though the core of this book deals with rape and the mental as well as physical ramifications of it, the even bigger story here is getting through it. Not accepting it, as that never happens, nor forgetting it, which is impossible, but understanding that it does not define who you are, and as hard as it may sound, you will learn to move on. Sid gets thrown into this deep abyss, herself, and I genuinely admired her every step of the way; from the good choices to the bad, she really shows us how strong a person can be, even when they're completely falling apart.

Family, friendship, and love are the main themes of this novel. Luckily, Sid has a fantastic support system that, even though they aren't aware, are the reason she's staying afloat. From the new guy she's met, to her adorable little brother, to even the neighbor's--freakishly large--dog, these are the types of supporting characters that make an already great book into an exceptional read filled with emotional depth. Corey, especially, is a character that I wish we would see more of in YA literature. Too often we have love interests with revolting personalities that we're supposed to swoon over. Finally, we have an honest to goodness fantastic guy who is worth all of our times. Corey is caring, kind, loving, and I want every teenage girl to read this if only for them to know that THIS is what they should be pining for. He is the perfect love interest. And not because of him being perfect, as he's not; he's realistically flawed with his own secrets, his own family troubles, and plenty of insecurities. His personality is what makes him beautiful, inside and out. And with every shy moment, with every shared laugh, with every hesitant touch, we watch them fall in love. In the best way teenage love could be written, Colleen makes us fall in love with them!

What Happens Next is not an easy novel to read. It deals with very serious, very hard issues that can easily take over someone's body, soul, and mind. But in the end, this is not about the negatives of such a trauma, but rather about learning to trust again; it's about finding solace in your friends and family; it's about finding love in the most unexpected of times. For anyone who has been a victim of assault, I hope that this book finds you. I hope that it gives you the strength to see that this broken road, it may just lead you to something worth fighting for.

--
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Tough Critic Book Reviews.
308 reviews2,152 followers
October 17, 2012
Do you trust me....

This book started out being one of thousands. A girl experiences a devastating life changing event. She suffers the effects by alienating her friends and becoming a shadow of her former self. A tragic story that portrays the harsh realities of high school. It was incredibly well written, but I kept thinking..."This has been done, what makes this book unique?"

Colleen Clayton answered my question by developing a story that invaded my thoughts, my emotions, and has me down on my knees begging for a sequel! I'm not going to lie, the first half of the book was a bit slow. I felt like the story wasn't going anywhere...it was stuck, but patience is a virtue my friends and thank God I wore my virtue today!

I can't even begin to put into words what I felt for Corey. He not only won my heart, but everything attached to it. I guarantee that he'll steal your heart too and I promise you won't ask for it back.

Books have their imperfections, What Happens Next is no different, but the author gave me something that erased all things short of perfect and delivered something so powerful.

I think the turning point was when the relationship between Cassidy and Corey really began to develop. The last few chapters were...are...they were...EPIC. Yes, I used the word epic. I loved everything about them except the very, very end. I needed more (God, please tell me there's more). I wish the beginning was less and the end was more, but I'm left with an appreciation and a gratefulness that I was able to experience this amazing book. Please trust me on this. Push through the imperfections to be left with a story that invades your heart and touches the soul. READ ON!!!


Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,801 reviews830 followers
November 6, 2012
4.5 Stars

What Happens Next is a heartfelt and emotional story that felt real and honest. I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous picking this up because of the subject matter, but I thought it was dealt with in tasteful and realistic way. I can’t believe this was Colleen Clayton’s debut novel, because the writing felt like it came from a pro. She had me entranced from the first pages.

Cassidy “Sid”Murphy is excited to go on her first school ski-trip with little supervision, imagining a mountain of hot guys and fun times with her two best friends, Kristen and Paige. When a dreamy older guy, Dax Windsor meets her in a ski lift line and glues himself to her for the rest of the day, she can hardly believe it. She’s a cheerleader, but the one always at the bottom of the pyramid. She’s curvier and stands out with curly red hair, not the typical girl guys dream about, in her opinion. He charms Sid into meeting him at a party and she sneaks out and goes alone. Unfortunately, for Sid, this is no party, it’s a nightmare she can’t remember the next day. Sneaking out on a school trip gets Sid in trouble along with her friends; her for doing it, and her friends for knowing and not telling. Her friends are beyond angry and their friendship takes a nosedive.

So Sid returns home with this awful thing hanging over her that she just wants to forget, and without her friends to confide in. Soon she’s is hanging out with the school “stoner” Corey, who’s in her A/V elective, and shoving away her former life and everything in it.

My heart went out to Sid. She paid dearly for the simple mistake of trusting the wrong person, and she paid dearly with the blame/shame game. She blames herself for being stupid and feels maybe she deserved what happened because of that. I’m so angry that there are really guys out there like Dax, who take advantage of girls with low self-esteem, and use it to further destroy them. Sid struggles with keeping this in, and what is does to her mentally and physically. I really connected with Sid, and even though I was frustrated by her not telling anyone, I can understand where she was coming from. I could easily put myself in her shoes.

There is a wonderful cast of secondary characters and first and foremost in my book is Corey. He is not what Sid expected at all. I think this is why she was able to get close to him in the first place, because there were no expectations. Corey was an all-around nice guy, no assumptions, no pushiness. He was not perfect, but he ended up perfect for her. Her best friends, Kristen and Paige were far from perfect, and the way they treated Sid in the beginning bugged me, but like with any long-time friends, you don’t always make the right decisions in the way you handle each other. Sid didn’t make things easy either.

I thought this was an amazing debut novel! I really enjoyed this heartfelt story, and would recommend it to fans of Hannah Harrington of Saving June and Speechless, and fans of Sarah Dessen. It had a really similar feel.

Favorite Scene/Quote:

“I have wanted to do that for so, so long.”
I cannot speak. I can only nod yes and hope he knows what I mean. He kisses me more….

“…for months and months…”
“…when you sprayed me with Dr. Pepper…”
“…at the bakery when you were holding that corned beef…”
“…and every single time I see you…”

I lean against the house and hold on to his wrists so I don’t dissolve into a puddle. And I kiss him back. Over and over, I kiss him back.


A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

You can find this review and more at The Readers Den.
Profile Image for Ksenia.
222 reviews25 followers
April 6, 2016
It’s really difficult for me to write a proper review on a book I’ve loved so much. I found myself at a loss for the words, drowning among emotions and thoughts. Though I'm sure I can’t do this amazing book any justice, I’ll try to write my thoughts.

What Happens Next is one of those books that lingers long after you turned the last page. I’ve read several books about rape, but it’s the first one dealing with date rape drugs. Sid couldn’t remember what happened that night. She remembers school ski-trip, how she met Dax Windsor and spent an entire day with him. He is older, handsome and seems to like Sid. She remembers him inviting her to the party and how she sneaked out to go there. But when she went to his house there is no party, just him. She remembers him inviting into the house. But after – nothing. And in some ways it is worse than remember.

Back at home Sid tries to cope with what happened with her. There is her eating disorder; her obsessive running and her insomnia, how she feels uncomfortable in her body and fears men’s attention. Sid pushes away her friends, she can’t confide in her mother, she is surrounded by school rumors about her rebellious sexy ski-trip and she is completely alone. Then she is paired with the school “stoner” Corey and slowly they form an unlikely friendship.

Romance is slow-build and very sweet. I also appreciate that Corey wasn’t the main reason that Sid was able to move on. He supported her, as well as her family and friends helped her, but in the end it was Sid herself who find her strength.

Corey is a wonderful love interest. Among all those jerks in YA he really stands out. Corey is such a nice guy, he is caring, kind. He is not perfect and he has his own family problems, but he is there for Sid, supporting, not pushing her if she is not ready.

There are also great second characters in this book: Sid’s best friends Kristen and Paige, her mother and little brother. They all are so real and I like how close she was to these people.

What Happens Next is a heartbreaking and powerful book. Though it deals with such tough topic as rape at a core What Happens Next is a very moving and filled with hope story. It’s not one of those gut-wrenching, painful and filled with raw emotions books. Yes, I cried; yes, I felt for Sid; it was like I went through her dealing with the rape with her; but at the end this book wasn’t about desperation, it was about moving on. All in all I think it’s my favorite book that deals with the rape. I highly recommend it.

You can find my reviews: Ksenia's blog SomethingDelicate.com
Profile Image for caren.
515 reviews104 followers
October 1, 2012
It's been two days, and I'm still angry. For all the build up, why couldn't the entire book have been like the last five or so chapters? I felt like the resolution wasn't nearly enough for all the work Clayton put into building it. I have far, far too many questions.

Did Sid go get help for her eating disorder?
Did doucheface Dax/Tom Rapity-dude go to jail?
Did Corey get into the culinary institute?
Did they move to New York together?

Come on, Colleen, I NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS! You can't give me half a book, woman. I need all the things.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,162 followers
September 27, 2012
What Happens Next is one of those novels that, quite honestly, you feel guilty for saying anything bad about. It’s powerful, it’s moving, it’s thought-provoking…but it also has its flaws. While this wasn’t my favorite novel that tackled on the tough topic of rape – that honor is reserved for Kirsty Eagar’s Raw Blue, - it was a story which surprised me by its unique expression of this scarring event. If anything, I am left in gaping awe of Colleen Clayton’s talent for capturing the human soul with its wrought emotions, trauma, and vulnerability so perfectly in a novel that is only her debut. I’ll be the first to admit it: What Happens Next isn’t perfect. It has its moments of weakness, its cluttered scenes, and plot threads that could have been cut out to make this novel much stronger overall, but that doesn’t detract from the provocative – and truly life-changing – story underneath.

Can one harmless school skiing trip snatch everything you loved away from you? Cassidy “Sid” Murphy didn’t think so, but when she meets the handsome Dax Windsor at a ski resort and wakes up the next morning in a strange bed, she realizes that it can. Sid has no memory of the previous night except to know that she had snuck out to meet Dax, an enigmatic guy who lavished attention upon Sid when no other guy ever would. Thus, with yawning holes in her memory and denial over what really happened to her, Sid slowly begins to spiral away from those who love – and could possibly help – her. But, as Sid will soon learn, your problems won’t go away by running away from them; you have to face them head-on.

“…the awful truth about that night, about the horrible thing that happened to me last winter, about the rape I can’t remember, and at the same time, can’t forget.” ~ What Happens Next ARC (Page 298)

What Happens Next is one of those books which start out with a bang, the writing sucking you in from page one. Clayton takes you on the same journey Sid has been on, letting you experience her insecurities, her happiness at being noticed by a handsome guy, and eventually the horror of what really happened to her. Thus, even from the start, it is obvious that What Happens Next is both an emotional and extremely dark read. Sid, as our protagonist, is someone who is startlingly easy to understand and the drastic changes that occur with her psychological mindset after her rape are jarring. You see, Sid has a voluptuous figure that she’s always been self-conscious about, but after her rape, she begins to fear the manner in which men view her. Now, this is where the plot of this story begins to become more…complicated. Clayton introduces a variety of multiple plot threads, from Sid’s new obsession with running to her on-again-off-again eating disorder and to her conflicts at school with her best friends. While I was initially confused – and rather disappointed – by these multiple plot threads which seemed to be irrelevant, they all do come together by the end of the novel to form a bigger picture of Sid’s grief and trauma.

Nevertheless, that being said, I do believe this novel may have been stronger without, for instance, Sid’s eating disorder. It never felt fully fleshed-out to me and detracted from some of the overall message this novel gave out, but ultimately, I was glad to see some different side-effects of rape. Each rape and each victim is different and so is each rape novel and for Sid, I think this managed to work itself out. Yet, what really makes What Happens Next shine and stand out as such a compelling debut is our inside look into Sid herself. In everything she does, Sid continually sees Dax and what he took away from her. Not only did he forcefully strip her of her innocence, peace of mind, or virginity, he cut off a lock of her hair and she can’t help but constantly think of him even when she doesn’t want to. To me, this type of reaction felt so real and like a kick in the gut. We, as the reader, keep hoping Sid can be happy and find a way to move on in life despite her tragedy, but there are always small, insignificant things that make Sid go back to that terrible night. It is in these moments that we are able to experience some of the horror of this event for ourselves and Clayton’s talent as a writer shines in these areas.

“’Were you safe? Did you use protection?’ he asks, looking at me dead-on this time.
No. I was not safe. No. I was not protected.
But that’s not what I say. What I say is the lie.”
~ What Happens Next ARC (Page 254)

In addition to Sid, I was pleasantly surprised and moved by the rest of the cast of What Happens Next. Sid’s single-mother and her half-brother are an important part of her life and it was nice to see the lack of Missing Parent Syndrome in this story. Furthermore, Sid’s best friends were like her pillars of reason, of logic, and of love. I admired the easy manner in which Clayton managed to make them such an integral aspect of Sid’s life as well and their friendship was one that was extremely beneficial to Sid. Corey, however, was hands-down my favorite character of all. Not only was their love story slow and extremely unique, it was absolutely adorable. I loved the way in which Corey and Sid brought out the best in each other and Clayton managed to portray an extremely normal high school relationship. Contrary to what the synopsis of this book may detail, Corey wasn’t the only factor in allowing Sid to move on – so much of that came from herself which I just loved. Strong protagonists are ones I absolutely adore and Sid’s strength and independence, despite her healthy relationship with Corey, was one I truly appreciated.

In conclusion, What Happens Next is another phenomenal debut of 2012. While the ending of this book tied together everything quite nicely, I would have still liked to see more of Sid’s healing process opposed to a novel based solely on her reaction to her rape. Still, it goes without saying that What Happens Next is a novel that will make you shake with horror, laugh with joy, and sob with grief. It is beautifully written, startlingly moving, and has only made me want to further explore the effects of rape and in particular, date rape drugs. If you’re looking for a strong contemporary read that is provocative and slowly romantic, look no farther: What Happens Next is the book for you.

*All quotes were taken from an uncorrected ARC of this novel and are subject to change in the final draft.

I was given a copy of this book from the author, Colleen Clayton, on behalf of the DAC ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. Thank You!

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Huntley Fitzpatrick.
21 reviews5,403 followers
May 20, 2012
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT is an amazing story. You immediately connect with the narrator, Sid. What happens to her is heartbreaking, real and beautifully conveyed in slow pieces by the author. Sid has a heart of steel, a great family, and a terrible piece of history to get beyond. The way she does it, and her connection to her friends and her boyfriend, will leave you in tears. A great book.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,351 reviews199 followers
November 10, 2014

”I don’t know what to do with it, this lack of peace, this need to know. I want it to go away but it won’t.”

Body and soul go hand in hand. When we fall in love, our bodies glow and souls soar. When we hurt—when someone hurts us—our bodies and soul cry out in distress. As much as we would like to tuck the pain and anger away and ignore it--somehow, someway our bodies will not allow that. The truth always comes slamming back into full-color reality when you least expect it. Our hearts and minds remind us again & again that pain cannot be ignored. We need support and help. We need to talk and heal.

Colleen Clayton’s What Happens Next tells one girl’s story--Sid Murphy’s story and struggle with self-respect, control, and anger after being raped. This book deals with the aftermath of rape. I’ve never come across a more realistic portrayal of a young woman trying so hard to face the terror, shame and ugliness of rape on her own before. A rape she cannot remember. Cannot talk about. But will never forget.

Right out of the gate here, I have to say how much I love Sid. She is sassy, strong, ballsy, and beautiful! Every move she made from the heartbreaking unfortunate decisions to the heart happy ones felt so real to me. After the night she was drugged and raped, Sid’s shock turns to silence. How do you say something so unbelievably horrible out loud for the first time? How do you find the words? Especially when you can’t remember it? Sid takes her anger and fear out on herself. Her self-image, friends, and life at school and home all change so fast. The dangers and pressure Sid puts on her body and mind build and build. She tries taking control by running until it hurts or goes numb. Starving, binging, and purging become weapons in her fight to change her body. To change what HE saw and took and touched. How Sid saw her body, talked about her body broke my heart. But what happens when she can no longer recognize herself? Can Sid move on without losing herself completely?

“You know I'd give you everything I've got
For a little peace of mind”
---I’m So Tired by The Beatles


Sid does find some comfort and peace with her music (John, Paul, George, & Ringo!) and family. Liam, her little brother, is a ray of light and innocence. Pure cuteness and joy! Peace also pops up in one of the most unexpected places. The AV room with one of the biggest stoners in school. Meet Corey Livingston! A tall, solid wall of sweetness that arrives in Sid’s life just when she needed a friend. Corey and Sid’s slow building friendship hits the page with hilarious jabs, silences, and yummy surprises. Their connection felt so perfect and real. The way Sid and Corey share themselves and help each other will touch your heart. Btw…I blame Corey for my cookie cravings doubling in size since reading this book. Pizzelles and Greek wedding cookies are all I want now! Corey may be known as a “stoner”, but he’s so many other wonderful things on top of that. Both Sid and Corey show readers that we are so much more than the boxes people put us in. I adore this sweet, powdered sugar dusted boy and wish on every star above that there is a real Corey Livingston out there for a girl to swoop up and love.

Ms. Clayton excels at capturing the banter, attitude, and twists and turns in a conversation. I loved how Sid and Corey took their time to trust and open up. It was fun and awkward and romantic. Corey’s voice was perfect—such a guy! He slurped soda off the table, called Sid by her last name, and had no idea what to say at times. Haha…I loved him! You will feel how much he cares though. It was beautiful to see. To see and feel such tenderness and trust after experiencing such ugliness must have given Sid peace. I know it touched and healed my heart.

A powerful read. One not to be missed.

Profile Image for Zainab.
361 reviews466 followers
March 25, 2018
Reread for the gazillionth time.
No matter how many YA novels I read I always come back to this one. It's just so real and the story is just so beautiful that I'm always emotional by the time I get to the ending no matter how many times I read this.
Profile Image for starryeyedjen.
1,640 reviews1,231 followers
November 2, 2012
What Happens Next is a poignant, raw, and intensely heartbreaking story.  And sososo brutally honest, yet it still manages to bring the lulz and even coerced a smile out of me a time or two (or ten).  I remember reading that synopsis for the first time and thinking to myself, This is going to be a sad book.  But I am going to give it a chance because I just have this feeling that it's going to surprise me.  And you know what?  It did...it really, really did.

I've never been in Sid's situation; I've never been sexually assaulted.  But I was in an abusive relationship as a teenager, one that lasted into my very early twenties...much, much longer than it should have.  And though I can't liken my experience to Sid's, I was able to identify with her decision to keep things secret because I've been there.  I thought that the shame and guilt and pain was mine alone to bear, as did Sid.  In the beginning, I shouted at the book, at Sid, "Why won't you tell anyone what he did to you?!?"  And then I thought about how I would've handled the situation at that age.  And, yeah, there's a very real possibility that I would have reacted the same way.

And that's one of the reasons why I think this book is so great, why I loved it so much, even though it made me feel all the things...because it made me feel all the things, and if given to the right girl, it might help her to feel all the things and might help her better handle a situation like this.  Because as much as we'd like to believe that this would never happen to us or someone we know, it does and it could.  And girls should know that they did nothing wrong...it's not their fault and they should tell someone who can help them, someone they trust.  I wish every young adult would read this book, boys included, because they could learn a thing or two about what it's like to be objectified by their peers on a daily basis and what it does to a person.

I loved Sid's voice.  She's quirky and sarcastic and, eventually, pretty honest with herself.  Sid's in denial for the better part of the novel, but not in complete denial.  Every once in awhile, she lets the psychotic part of her brain (her words, not mine) slip and admit to the rational part of her brain that she's not dealing with this well.  She realizes that she has an eating disorder, that she might need counseling, and that she should tell someone what was done to her.  And yet she remains silent.

Even though her friends have turned their backs on her and she's been kicked off the cheerleading squad, there's still a bright spot in all of this.  Sid ends up in the AV room with Corey, which she has severe reservations about because of his reputation as a total slacker/stoner type.  But they eventually become friends.  And then more than friends, and as Corey proves again and again why he is one of the best-written love interests I've ever read in a YA novel, Sid falls hard for him and puts aside all of her previous prejudices as she discovers who Corey really is.

This novel is so multi-faceted, so jaw-dropping realistic and true to life.  I gasped in shock.  I blubbered and read through tears.  And I cracked up because Sid is seriously funny when she's feeling up to it.  I wish I could unread this book so I could experience it all over again for the first time.  Yes, it's sad.  Yes, it's dealing with tough subject matter that deserves some serious attention.  But I wouldn't have it any other way because this book is as real as it gets.  And the author deserves kudos for going above and beyond and writing such a tragic yet beautiful story featuring real characters dealing with real life in a less than perfect way, but dealing with it all the same.  This is a book that I definitely want my daughter to read when she's ready.  I hope it touches her the way it did me.

Favorite quotes:

"I spend the whole day shoveling.  First the driveway, then the sidewalk, then the neighbor's porch.  Every two hours, the snow is back.  The menial nature of the job is a relief from having to think too much, and I enjoy the backbreaking pain of it.  I look over at Mr. Snowblower three doors down and stifle the urge to yell "Hey, pussaaay!  That all ya got?"

"Far southwest corner.  He's over there.  With her.  Don't point."
I scan the yard.  The crowd is getting bigger by the second.
"Southwest corner?  I'm not a park ranger, Kirsten.  You mean by the hot tubs?"
"No. By the fire.  Sitting on the picnic table."

"And I never thought I'd ever be sitting here with you like this.  In my wildest dreams I never dreamed it.  I sat in that AV room for eight weeks, watching Deadwood so I wouldn't have to look at you, so that I wouldn't grab you and kiss you and thank you for getting me through something that was really, really awful.  I would watch you out of the corner of my eye, though.  God, I wanted to kiss you so bad it hurt.  I've always, always thought you were beautiful, Sid.  Always."

Thanks to the ladies at Southern Book Bloggers ARC Tours for providing the review copy!

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Profile Image for Irina Elena.
658 reviews172 followers
May 7, 2013
I waited a lot to read this, since based on the first couple pages it seemed a quite happy and girly kind of read, despite the topic, and I'm not often in the mood for that. It has no logic, I know.
I should not have.

What makes this book a five star read for me: it is one of the best portrayals of the aftermath of rape I have ever read. It handles heavy topics, including but not exclusively rape, in a way that is serious, but not tragic or heavy-handed. These are hard things, but we get over them; in my view, that was the point the author was trying to make.
Sid does not, as the blurb hints, completely delete the night of the rape from her memory; what happens is a much more complex, deep and lasting process and it allows us see how this kind of thing can affect people in ways that I myself would not have imagined.

On a lighter note, it was interesting, for once, to be in the head of the girl with big boobs... I know, I'm so superficial. But really, that's a serious thrill for me. [Yay for self-deprecation that is actually being a complaining bitch.]
Sid is a different girl - people, for real this time. She's not the petite athletic brunette or the swan-like blonde ballerina or the geek - she is a girl that is different because each of us is unique. She does not have any special abilities, she's not a genius and she's not the most beautiful girl on the planet without realizing it. She's curvaceous, a curly redhead and a smart girl, remarkably self aware and confident, despite having some issues with her appearance. During the book she grows and changes, and I felt like she was so real that I grew right along with her.

The writing is mostly the “unnoticeable” kind – the one that pulls you into the story so much that you don't even notice it anymore – but there are some beautiful turns of phrase and similes.
There is a relatively small cast of characters, but these are developed realistically and in depth, despite the fact that the story is narrated in first person by Sid.

Now for the sixth star: Corey Livingston. I literally have no words to describe the perfection. Let's take a dip in the cliché pond: Corey Livingston is perfect because he's imperfect. Wait, wait! Don't bitchslap me now. He's not imperfect in that he's had a hard life (well, that, too) or that his beautifully sculpted features and marble abs bear war scars; he's imperfect because he's been in jail for something he has actually done, because he has love handles “just waiting to happen”, because he's not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, because he lashes out when he's angry. But he's perfect because he's romantic, has long lashes, is a baker, listens, holds, forgives and is there for Sid – every single time she wants him, and even when she doesn't.
Um, turns out I did have words.

I have talked more about Corey than about the main topic of the book, but that's because I know that if I get started on that and on how much it affected me I probably won't stop writing until I fill a book all of my own.
Suffice to say that I loved this with all of my heart and I cannot wait to read more by Colleen Clayton, because she is a truly gifted storyteller and a deft hand at analysing emotions and their physical repercussions.

Now honestly, after such an accomplishment of a novel, who cares if the ending was a bit rushed? It still left me hopeful, raw and completely satisfied.
Profile Image for Zemira Warner.
1,569 reviews1,037 followers
September 25, 2013
What Happens Next has been on my wishlist since January 2012. I knew I would enjoy the heck of it. And I knew I was right. I'm just not sure why I didn't read it the moment it was released.

I've mentioned this a couple of times- YA contemporary is my favorite genre. I never get tired of reading about real life situations and how different people deal with them. What Happens Next deals with two very hard to talk about topics-rape and bulimia.

A guy rapes Sid on her skiing trip she went with her friend. She doesn't remember the act itself because she was drugged but that doesn't help her feel any better. She withdraws from her best friends, start running two times a day. She starts to sleep and eat less. She tells no one what happened on the ski trip because she want to protect her loved ones.

I understand why she hid the truth from everyone. Because she feels like it won't help anyone if they do find out. The rapist won't get caught cause and her family and friends will feel terrible and she doesn't want that to happen. It's enough that she feels horrible.

The romance was slow but satisfying considering what Sid's going through. Corey were a normal guy with a few problems but whenever they're in the A/V room together everything else disappears and they get the chance to just be.

The way Mrs. Clayton wrote her debut novel is extraordinary because I don't think normal people know what it feels like to be a victim of a rape or to suffer from an eating disorder. She must've had an encounter with those type of people to be able to fully understand their daily struggles.

I recommend this books to those reader who don't shy away from tricky subjects.

Profile Image for Hollie.
4 reviews1 follower
March 18, 2012
When I react to a character by speaking to her (yes, out loud and in my head), I know I've found a book with power and soul. Colleen Clayton brings to life Sid Murphy - a fighter you champion as she deals with this generation's timely issues - but takes you back to your own if you are of another. With a strength you admire (and a music playlist that truly rocks!), meet Sid Murphy. What Happens Next? That's a question I have for the author...when a debut novel packs this much authority, I can't wait to see what she brings to the ring next.
Profile Image for Tandie.
1,462 reviews213 followers
January 15, 2018
This book. I had all the feels.
Sid was so real, it hurt. Especially how she tried to tell herself a different story and the struggle she went through with her body and control. I totally got why she didn't tell anyone, she didn't want it to be real.

Corey was the sweetest boy I've read in a while. I want him to be real! You'll swoon over him too. Great family relationships and friendships. For a book about the aftermath of rape, it sure has a lot of good feels. Highly recommended.

This was a clean read and there are no rape details. There were F-bombs.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
August 19, 2012
2.5.

If the rest of the book had felt like the last four chapters did, this would have been a knock-out debut, rather than a book that didn't really stand above others tackling similar issues.

Sid is on a school-sponsored ski trip when she decides to go to a party by herself with a guy named Dax. He'd charmed her immediately, and she was taken with him because no guy at school had ever paid her any attention. She's insecure in who she is and what she looks like -- she has breasts and an ass and a shape which make her uncomfortable -- and so Dax's attention to her as a person allows her to feel safe with him. Except, of course, he's not a good guy. When she wakes up the morning after the party and discovers she's not in her condo with her friends, many questions arise in her mind.

Over the rest of the book, Sid struggles with an eating disorder as a means of coping with the truth of what happened that night. In the midst of the eating disorder (which I didn't find authentic but rather forced and convenient), Sid has to navigate shifting friendships and being labeled as the girl who got in trouble on the ski trip.

But then there is Corey. Loser, former arrestee Corey. Who happens to be way into Sid and cares about her so deeply. When their relationship blossoms, it's here where Sid learns a lot about herself -- through Corey's pushing -- and comes to terms with what really happened that night and how she's handled herself in the meantime.

The book takes on a little too much at times, and I found the writing bordered on trying too hard. There's a clear change in Sid through the story and a real arc to her character (and the writing itself follows through with this too -- it feels much more natural and believable near the end) but it still didn't quite make up for the rough start and middle. Usually I'm not a fan of when the guy-saves-the-girl trope, but it works here because Corey honestly and faithfully cares about Sid and her well-being, and she never once buys into it. He was, hands down, one of my favorite male characters in a book. My only reservation was that the romance felt a bit contrived when it seemed like their relationship was a lot better when it read like a close friendship vs an intimate "something more." In other words, I didn't need pages of making out because it was boring. I found the moments when Corey pushed Sid to her emotional and mental limits, engaging her in honest conversation about herself and her situation, were where I learned a heck of a lot about both of these characters.

This reminded me of a mix of Kody Keplinger and Daisy Whitney in terms of writing and story. I think it could have been even more comparable, an entry in between the two of them, if that eating disorder subplot hadn't been there. Paring it down would have made this so much stronger.

Longer review to come.
Profile Image for Rachele Alpine.
Author 13 books174 followers
Read
April 16, 2012
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of WHAT HAPPENS NEXT as part of an interview I’ll do of Colleen and the book for The Lucky 13s Debut 2013 Author blog. I am so excited that I got to read this book now instead of waiting until October (but trust me, it’s worth the wait). It’s one of my favorite reads in a long time, and I read a lot as a high school English teacher. A real lot! I pretty much eat, sleep and breath YA literature. It takes a lot for a book not only to grab my attention but for me to want to flag it as a multiple order for my school and classroom library. This is one of those books. It’s a book that I’ll make a point of pushing it into the hands of as many of my students as I can. The book is powerful, the writing is beautiful and Sid is one of the best characters I’ve met in a long time. It is a story that is important for teenagers to read, and one that I think will speak to them.

One of my favorite things about this book is the character of Sid. Because the thing is, unlike a lot of characters facing tragic events in YA literature, Sid is broken by a rape she doesn’t remember, but she doesn’t let it break her. She’s such a strong character and you understand why she’s dealing with the rape the way she is (even though I wanted to shout at her many many times to tell someone, I understood why she didn’t…why she couldn’t). I also love love love that she comes from a family that loves her. Her mom is a part of her life, her little brother adores her and Sid feels the same way back toward the two of them. It’s good to see a book with a strong family relationship, because it shows readers that bad things can happen to anyone, and even if you come from a family who loves and supports you, it still isn’t always easy to tell the truth. The story also has a sweet love story, Colleen Clayton’s sense of place transports you right to this town, and the antagonists are real. Oh…the antagonists. I totally bought how Sid fell prey to her Dax and the cheerleaders in this book are so so awful. But again, it speaks so truthful to high school and I think it’s in that honesty that teens will relate and connect to Sid’s journey.

There are novels out there that as a teacher, I MUST get into the hands of students. This is one of those important books.
Profile Image for Maida»-(¯`v´¯)-».
1,666 reviews421 followers
July 19, 2016
RATING: 4.75 EMOTIONAL & BEAUTIFUL HEARTS

No status updates...no nothing. I read this in one sitting and finished it at 4:25 am today. It was just that good. Heartfelt, emotional, beautifully written, fantastic character development and above all realistic. That is a killer combination for any book. I simply loved this.


Profile Image for YA Reads Book Reviews.
673 reviews258 followers
October 17, 2012
Originally posted on www.yareads.com, reviewed by Kiona.

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?
Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still…), 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 unable to relate to her old 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.
Cassidy “Sid” Murphy isn’t exactly popular, despite being a cheerleader, and she’s never really received positive attention from guys. So when a local college guy takes an interest in her during a school ski trip, Sid can’t resist going off to meet him alone. Unfortunately, the last thing she remembers is talking with him in his kitchen before waking up alone in his bed and dealing with the ramifications of having sneaked out. It’s clear to Sid what her mystery guy has taken from her: her virginity, along with a lock of her springy red curls. But she can’t tell anyone and so she develops a reputation: some classmates see her as a rebellious hero, while others label her a slut. Her inability to confide in anyone causes her to lose her true friends. In an effort to distance herself even further, she signs up for A/V, where she spends an entire period with only Corey “the Living Stoner” Livingston for company. Slowly, Sid finds out that there’s more to Corey than meets the eye; he’s surprisingly easy to get along with and he doesn’t seem to judge Sid. The two start spending more time together, but Sid’s not sure how far their relationship can go without Corey realizing Sid’s hiding a major secret.

I was tentative about starting What Happens Next. Rape is a big, intense subject and it’s easy for authors to deal with it badly or unrealistically. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed What Happens Next. It’s a book about rape, without being a book about rape, if that makes sense. The title probably comes closest to explaining what I mean; this is a book about what happens after a traumatic event. And by that I don’t mean the police investigations and broken family situations. Sid chooses to keep her secret and try to move on with her life, a decidedly atypical reaction that makes her a fascinating character to read about. Sid makes a lot of irrational choices, all the while understanding that her choices are irrational and that she’s probably doing the wrong thing, without being able to stop herself. But still, the point of this book is joining Sid on her journey as she tries to get back control of her life. We watch as she transforms into a different person and root for her to show her attacker that while he may have taken something precious from her, he can’t take her life away.

So what sets this book apart? As soon as Sid first makes the decision to lie instead of telling the truth, we essentially stop hearing about “the event.” Instead, we focus on Sid’s inner thoughts and psychological dissection of herself. I love Sid. I can’t stress enough how utterly stupid a lot of female characters in YA are and Sid is the exact opposite of that. She’s so, so smart. Her thoughts are so real that they mirror the thoughts of the reader as you’re reading. Throughout the book, Sid struggles with obsessive thoughts and bulimia. She questions why she’s forcing herself to purge, only to remember, “Well, I know why I’m doing it. I just don’t know how to stop.” One of my absolute favorite things about Sid is how self-aware she is. She watches herself to terrible things and she questions those things, but she is so broken that she’s unable to stop herself. This is possibly the most real depiction of coping with a traumatic event that I’ve seen in YA literature and though, hopefully, many of us can’t claim to relate to Sid’s situation directly, her feelings of self-doubt and helplessness are definitely relatable, which make the story that much more powerful.

Of course, this book is also a love-story, though there are definitely two love-stories at play; we have Sid’s relationship with Corey, and then Sid’s relationship with herself. Sid and Corey’s relationship simmers slowly and boils into something incredibly sweet. Corey is not at all what I expected and a thousand times better. He is so very real, the guy that every girl wants but forgets to give a chance. And he’s a baker! What more could you ask for? Oh, I know, a revelatory transformation on the part of our main character. Because, in essence, Sid learns to love herself, which turns out to be the most satisfying journey of the entire novel.

The only problem with What Happens Next is that the conclusion leaves the book feeling a bit unresolved. Not that I need or want some big, dramatic confrontation with Sid and her attacker — I much prefer the emotional poignancy of the confrontation between Sid and Corey, which is beautifully, believably done. I get that this story is all about characterization, which I love. The ending just doesn’t feel like a complete ending for me, though it’s clear that it is. But that’s the only reason I’m knocking off half a heart, rating-wise. Otherwise, What Happens Next is a beautiful and moving story of a traumatized girl overcoming the most awful of circumstances and finding her inner strength.
Profile Image for Andi (Andi's ABCs).
1,531 reviews187 followers
March 23, 2017
Confession time: When I read the description of What Happens Next my mind never connected the situation Sid got into on the ski trip with sexual assault. Honestly my mind went to some weird mystical thing because of the missing lock of hair. I have no idea why, but it did. And man was I wrong. There is nothing mystical about it. What Happens Next is real, very very real.

Like every girl at 16, Sid Murphy is anything but comfortable in her own skin. With an above average chest and curves she could do without, she has spent her whole life getting negative attention from men and boys. The first thing they ever seems to notice is her chest or derriere and after they do there is always some snide comment that follows. She has gotten used to it. Hates it, but used to it. So when on a school sponsored ski trip a charming college guy seems to like her for more then her body and invites her to a party, she is sold. Going against her friends advice Sid goes alone to meet Dax. From that moment on everything is different. Sid doesn’t remember what happened that night exactly, but she knows it wasn’t good and she is now no longer the same girl she was before. Now instead of cheerleading and hanging out with her friends Sid runs and hangs in the AV room with Corey Livingston, the resident pot head. All she wants to do is get of her own head and running and being with Corey lets her do just that. And as their friendship blossoms Sid begins to spiral out of control with only Corey to keep her together. She wants to talk but she can’t. The past is just too big and she scared it will swallow her whole.

The thing I liked most about this story besides the AMAZING Corey Livingston(he’s my new book boyfriend and I’ll gush about him in a bit) was the relatablity of Sid. I have luckily never been in a situation like Sid was in, but I could understand why she made all the choices she made including going to that party alone. Did I agree with them, definitely no, but I got the motivation behind it. After years of ‘negative’ attention Sid felt special from the complements Dax gave her. She was naïve and just wanted to feel pretty for something other then her body. And I also completely understood where she was coming from when she started to run and not take care of herself properly. She lost a part of herself that night in the mountains and was desperate to have some semblance of control over her life. Running gave her that control and so did deciding what to eat and not eat and when to eat and not eat. And she was obsessed with her body image. In her head all boys saw was boobs and butt and by binge dieting and running she was able to change her appearance and make herself less noticeable and less likely to end up a victim ever again. It kind of broke my heart how low she got on herself and how easily she was able to hide it. Her self-esteem was horrible and I honestly think Corey was the only one that noticed.

Corey, Corey, Corey! I am completely head over heels in love with Corey Livingston. I can honestly say there was not one thing I didn’t like about him. He wasn’t what he appeared to be from the surface. There was something deeper to him. He was labeled and judged and yet he didn’t let it get him down. His relationship/friendship with Sid was beautifully written. The way he talked to her and treated her was amazing and he didn’t even know what happened on the ski trip. He was kind and loving and exactly what Sid needed at a really hard time in her life. Have I mentioned that I’m in love with him?! HA.

Really What Happens Next is an amazing story about a girl that made a bad choice that leads to her life spiraling out of control while she tries to maintain in control. It’s true and honest and heartfelt and heart breaking all at the same time. Clayton gives you a real look at a hard subject but does it way that isn’t depressing but hopefully. By far, hands down, one of the best books I have read ever and I can’t wait for more from this amazing author. Run don’t walk to the nearest book store and pick up this one ASAP. I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Profile Image for Cassandra (Thebookishcrypt).
565 reviews51 followers
April 11, 2016
*TRIGGER WARNING: ABUSE*

Oh, man. This is the first book I have read from Colleen and I know that it will NOT be my last. This woman completely caught me by surprise. I definite punch to my face. This book gripped my heart so hard, I felt myself suffocating as I read. It hit so close to home that I considered not finishing it. But, I powered through and I now have a favorite book because of it.
This book follows a 16 year old girl, Sid. Her pain was palpable through the pages and it rattled me to my core. She has some of the BEST people anybody could have in their life and it broke my heart to see it when she couldn't. She goes through things nobody should ever even come close to experiencing and the way she deals with the situations are incredibly realistic. I found myself struggling alongside with her and sometimes I was pissed at her. I wasn't proud of some of the things she did but that's what made her so incredibly human. But other than those bumps in the road, she is a strong character and it was obvious from the way she carried herself. She wasn't difficult to relate to at all.
The way that Colleen wrote this story was unbelievable. I found myself completely forgetting it was a novel. The words hit me like I were being attacked and I felt like Sid herself was writing me a letter. I could hear her voice as if she were right next to me. It felt as if she was my best friend who was confiding something to me that she couldn't do in person. Sid struggles with self-image and it was difficult to see her not loving herself when I could see what an amazing person she really is.
I was also introduced to a new favorite character: COREY!!!! That guys is absolutely hilarious, I couldn't stop laughing whenever he came up. My first impression of him was amazing and one of the best I've stumble upon!! It's safe to say it was love at first sight. He was a crucial part to the story and I am so glad he was apart of it. His actions and words (Oh, lord his words!!) and his overall personality were my ultimate addiction. He made me cry from happiness and from pain. Only bad thing I have to say about him is that my expectations in guys are now even more high.
I was so invested in their relationship that whenever it wasn't all flowers and rainbows, I was sobbing. I wanted the best for them but sometimes bad things happen and I had to deal with it.
This book brought out so many emotions from me, it was ridiculous. I cried, I laughed, I was scared, I was giddy and I was heart-broken. I was completely shut off from real life and read this in one sitting. I don't think I have ever laughed as hard I laughed over this book. (In the appropriate moments, of course.) I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop throughout it all and when it did, I couldn't stop sobbing my eyes out. This book was brutal. It broke my heart and I definitely needed a fluffy read right after.
Profile Image for rachel.
737 reviews138 followers
October 18, 2013
I so want to like a young adult book about young female survivors coping in the aftermath of rape. I think it's important that someone writes a good young adult book on this subject, to help girls who (very unfortunately) experience this kind of thing process what has happened, and find comfort in not being alone, too.

That good YA book isn't this one. I had so much hope that it would be -- until about half of the way through, when, with a pit in my stomach, I realized the direction we'd be heading in. Sigh.

The problem that I have with books like What Happens Next is that they're too often focused on the victimized girl learning to date and get physical again with a boy who swoops in and rescues her fragility, and not focused on how the girl is learning to cope and make peace with herself despite the tragedy that has just occurred, with the help of a support network that extends beyond "other boy who wants to get in her pants, kinda." Even though this plot is meant to be "romantic" in a very teenaged way, it's pretty gross that it's always some savior boy that heals the victim and restores her self-esteem with his selflessness/true wuv. Not all girls are going to have that, y'know, a boy clamoring for their affection. And it's dangerous and damaging for them to wish to be saved, instead of doing the work to save themselves.

To be fair, the protagonist of What Happens Next, Sid Murphy, doesn't look for a boy to heal her after rape. He kinda just falls into her lap, this stoner baker boy who watched her from afar and admired her and was never able to forget her. But what happens to the victims who don't have Cory Livingston romantic heroes in their lives to tell them they're getting too skinny, thus rescuing them from eating disorder? To tell them they've always been beautiful? How are they supposed to feel in the harsh reality of not having been "rescued"?

I don't mean to be mean, but look: about 70% of this book is a romance. Crush flutterings, first date, first kiss, lots of kissing. It's boring, and the rape gets swept way too far out of focus, in my opinion -- except for how Sid kind of casually develops an eating disorder to lose her hourglass figure and "eating disorder" becomes a stand-in for "hey, still dealing with my trauma."

I am not saying that love does not heal. Love absolutely heals. But "romantic love heals" should not be the takeaway message in total when you are dealing with something as life-decimating as sexual assault.

There is one poignant scene where Sid goes to the drugstore and confesses to the kind, heavily-eyelinered girl behind the register what has happened to her. It's the first time she's able to talk about her rape. That's more what I wish this book had been. More processing, less boys obscuring Sid's journey. I know someone, somewhere will write this book. So I will just have to keep looking.
Profile Image for Ceitidh.
297 reviews130 followers
October 12, 2012

Read more of my reviews at Dazzling Reads

I love reading contemporary novels because they are a window to different realities. In this case, What Happens Next tells the story of Sid, a girl who is drugged and raped during the school's ski trip. Yet, she can barely remember a guy with caramel eyes and then... nothing, nothing but the knowledge that those caramel eyes took something from her on that horrible night.

What Happens Next is a novel about a very shocking subject, rape. But even though is a book about rape, it never felt uncomfortable to read. Miss Clayton, with delicacy and respect, referred to this subject in a way that is appropriate for young readers. In addition, I think Miss Clayton portrayed Sid in a very convincing and realistic way. At the same time, I can't even fathom that something like what happened to Sid does happen to people in real life. The way Sid deals with this terrible event is easy to understand but very hard to accept. I understand her denial and her confused feelings to the point that I wished to be there to help her myself. Her struggles, denial and confusion felt like letting yourself drown knowing that there is a life vest right in font of you, yet still beyond your reach. Furthermore, What Happens Next makes you see below the surface of a bullied, shy girl. It opens your eyes to the countless of reasons there may be for someone to go through such radical change in less than a year, whether it is in a physical or psychological way.

In what concerns the characters, I think they were perfect! Their relationship was slowly built, increasing my excitement for the so awaited declaration of love. Sid and Corey are multi-layered characters and hard to figure out. I think their complexity portrays them very well as teenagers that deal with unfortunate and terrible life circumstances. At times, I could relate to Sid and Corey, but sometimes their life seemed very alien to me yet so understandable. Miss Clayton shaped these complex characters with knowledge, respect and empathy, and there is nothing more rewarding after reading a novel than to realize that the characters were carefully created with a big, big amount of love.

I said that I love contemporary novels because they open our eyes to different realities and even though most of them are works of fiction, they reflect the world we live in with its brightest and darkest sides. What Happens Next delivers one of those dark sides that we will never want to see ourselves into it. But it delivers it with brightness, and after reading this book, you will actually feel good to have done so. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews714 followers
September 23, 2013
I’ve had this book since last year and I kept on putting it off because I kept on finding other books. I think I own an apology to this book.

Dear Book,
I am so sorry for putting you off, I will accept whatever punishment you have in store for me.
Lots of love,
Rashika


Now that that’s done, I should probably talk about the book.

So I think you’ve figured out that I loved this book. The characters were great, the relationships were great, the plot was great. WHAT WASN’T GREAT?

This book is about a girl who was raped but she cannot remember what happened. It takes her a while to figure out that that was what happened and after that she starts sinking in to herself.

She doesn’t like her body because she is always getting unwanted attention from older guys. She blames the way she looks for what happened to her. So she starts having these “urges” where she vomits out everything she eats so that she can weight. She hides her body. She wants to blend in so no one will notice her.

Then she meets Corey. Their relationship develops slowly and she finally lets Corey in. Their romance is so sweet.

Her own character development is amazing; she doesn’t change in just a day. It takes her a year to finally have some hope for herself. To finally make peace with herself. To really open up.

The author does a great job with this concept, it’s a big thing and to pull it off is hard. The book is heartbreaking yet beautiful and I recommend it to people looking for a moving story.
Profile Image for hal .
769 reviews110 followers
December 1, 2015
Content warnings for this book : sexual assault

This book is beautiful and haunting. It shows the strength of the human spirit and the beauty of love, true love.

I admired Cassidy. She was strong-willed and spirited. She made mistakes, but this made her a realistic and relatable character. I felt for her the entire novel. Corey was so good to Cassidy and he was so sweet and kind.

I really liked What Happens Next. Four stars.
Profile Image for Heather.
569 reviews
October 9, 2012
Read all my reviews at http://www.flyleafreview.com

4.5/5 Stars

Guys, I am not ashamed to admit that I like "issue" books. I know that many readers don't particularly care for them, I think many worry it will be just too much: too heavy, too depressing, too preachy. And I'm sure there are books out there fall under that category. What Happens Next does deal with some very dark, heavy issues. But it never felt once felt preachy, in fact, What Happens Next, really opened my eyes to the many different ways rape and sexual assault can affect the victim, ways I had never really considered.

Cassidy (Sid) is a your typical teenage girl. She is in the middle strata of the social hierarchy at her Ohio high school. Sid is a cheerleader, but as a "bigger" girl she is the base of the cheerleader pyramids, not the slender, petite girl topping it. Sid isn't obese, she's curvy, or as her two best friend Kristin and Paige like to say, voluptuous. It is a body type that sixteen year old Sid can't stand. And even though her friends assure her that once she gets in college the older and more mature boys are going to flip for it, that doesn't exactly make her life any easier in the present.

With these insecurities and Sid's young age in mind, it is easy to see how she could be the perfect victim for a manipulative rapist. When Sid meets the attentive and flirty college-age Dax, we can read the warnings from a mile away. And yeah, I definitely cringed while reading. But given Sid's issues with her image it was understandable that she would make the choices that she makes after meeting Dax.

The assault takes place within the first chapters of the book, but the focus of What Happens Next is the aftermath, the fallout that Sid experiences. Sid, though insecure with her body and looks, is what I would describe as a vivacious personality. She's a bit loud, always has a good come back line, and is sort of larger than life. It is a striking contrast to the person she becomes after she is raped. Sid withdraws into herself and refuses to tell anyone about what happened, including her mom, and pulls away from her two best friends in the process.

What I loved about this book was how authentic and real the characters and story felt. Unfortunately, Sid's story is not uncommon. And even though I have not ever been through what Sid experienced, it was easy (uncomfortably so, in fact) to put myself in Sid's shoes. I liked Sid's character immediately. Even though I think it was a mistake for her not to confide in someone about what happened, Sid is a survivor. She finds a way to deal with what happened to her, it's not the right way, and it's certainly not the healthy way, but Sid doesn't ever once give up. I love Sid's courage.

I knew that as a rape victim survivor Sid was going to face some difficult things. I wasn't surprised about her recurring nightmares. I wasn't surprised that she withdrew or that she probably feared intimacy. But what did take me by surprise was how the rape affected Sid's already negative body image issues. Did you know that victims of sexual assault are at risk for developing eating disorders? I didn't. And when Sid, whose life has spun out of control after she is raped, turns to extreme exercise and dieting as a way to 'medicate' herself, I had a real head-smacking moment. Because even though I never connected anorexia and bulimia as an after effect of sexual assault, it suddenly made perfect sense. Sid runs as a way to keep from thinking about the rape. She runs in the middle of the night after her dreams won't let her rest and she runs during the day when she can't escape the same thoughts. What begins as a way to distract herself from reliving that experience turns into so much more. Sid can't control what happened to her on that ski trip, but she can control what her body looks like now. Always uncomfortable with her curvy frame, Sid begins using exercise to self medicate and a way to gain back some of the power she lost when she she was raped. The last thing Sid wants to do is attract attention from the opposite sex, so she rids herself of her curvy figure. But what's awesome about this book is that all of this occurs so gradually. It's not like Sid wakes up one day and says "Hey, I don't want to look like a sexual object anymore so I think I'll stop eating and run ten miles everyday to achieve this." It's a subtle thing that happens in the story, so subtle that you don't realize it's happening right away. And neither does Sid. It's such a fascinating, and disturbing, thing to watch unfold. I was kind of blown away but how well this complicated story was told and how much I strongly responded to it. When I discovered that author Colleen Clayton was a social worker and a program director of Big Brothers and Sisters before going back to school to receive her MFA in fiction writing, I wasn't at all surprised. They say to be a good writer you write what you know and I think considering Ms. Clayton's background, she would definitely be one to know about sexual assault.

I loved reading this compelling story about how a girl handles life after she is raped, but there is a lot more to love about What Happens Next. Sid's character is only one of several that resonated with me. I mentioned Sid's friends, and the fact that she loses them after her assault. It would be easy to dislike them for dropping her when she pulls away, but it's, as it is in real life, more complex than that. Without spoiling I will say that things do come full circle between Sid and her friends and there are some beautiful moments of redemption on the part of all three girls.

The next character that I REALLY loved was Sid's mom. You guys, how many times must I say it? I LOVE when parents are actively included in YA books. Especially contemporary YA. Sid's mom is a force to be reckoned with. She's sort of hell on wheels (in a good way) in the body of a thirty-something Irish mom. She is very present in Sid's life and loves her daughter fiercely. It's through her that we see where Sid gets her feisty-ness and spirited nature. And the best part about Sid's mom? She's a mom first and friend second. As a mom myself, I can't tell you how much I love that Ms. Clayton wrote her this way.

But what about ROMANCE? Oh yes, do we have some romance in this book. Sid has got so many problems and just when you think that things are looking pretty bleak and hopeless, enter Corey Livingston. The subtle and gradual way events unfold after Sid is raped are echoed in the romance between Sid and Corey. Taking a rape survivor and throwing her into a serious relationship too soon would have killed this story. It's unrealistic and Sid's not ready for something like that. Instead, Ms. Clayton writes a friendship, one that is tentative and shaky in the beginning, and allows it to slowly develop into something more. It takes time for Sid and Corey (who has his own personal demons) to learn to trust each other. Theirs is a quiet romance (which are the BEST) and watching their relationship grow from friends to more was beyond awesome. Had it not been for Corey and his companionship, this story would feel too heavy, too depressing. Instead Corey does something that no one else was able to do: he gives Sid hope. I'm not saying he swoops in as a knight in shining armor and rescues Sid from her terrible predicament. Sid has to learn to rescue herself and Corey becomes the grounding force that helps her do this.

Guys, I love Corey. He's an unconventional leading man, but he is so real. He's the absolute opposite of Dax Windsor in every way. He is kind and caring, he doesn't rush things with Sid and he likes her for who she is. He's also funny and engaging and totally swoonworthy. He is the PERFECT boyfriend and I just adore the love story that Ms. Clayton has written within the pages of What Happens Next. It was sweet and unexpected and the icing on top of the cake.

A breakthrough moment comes in What Happens Next, a moment when Sid recognizes that she is ready to move forward and that she needs help in order to do this. It's this turning point that, in my opinion, that takes this book from good to great. The message that What Happens Next sends is ultimately positive and hopeful, and one that I think any woman, young or old, would benefit from. I am SO impressed with Colleen Clayton's debut novel! It's a standalone (Hooray for those rare breeds!) but I am a little sad to be saying goodbye to these characters that I have become so invested in. I know that I will be back to read more by this author in the future. Something about this book, issues and all, really stands out. I hope you will give it a try yourself. What Happens Next is on sale TODAY, go check it out!

4.5/5 Stars
Profile Image for Jenni Arndt.
438 reviews331 followers
October 8, 2012
I loved this book. What Happens Next and I had an intense relationship for two days in which I couldn't stop reading it and when I was forced to put it down I would go about my day, think about the amazing characters and find myself with rogue tears falling from my eyes. Collen Clayton has weaved a story that is full of heart and unflinching in its brutal, uncomfortable honesty. I think it's safe to say that these characters are ones that I will be thinking about for a long time to come, and I wish I had some of them in my life.

I connected with Cassidy (Sid) in a way that I don't think I have ever connected with a fictional character before. I was that girl, I was 5'10" in junior high and filled out really early, I was always getting looked at, and approached by guys who were much older than I. Now this wouldn't have been an issue that I would have even thought about, except there was also the fact that guys my age never gave me a second look. I was the Green Giant. I never got danced with in junior high, I sat on the benches and watched everyone else dancing. So needless to say, I understood our main character on a very personal level and I think that helped me to understand her motivations perfectly. I was so heartbroken for her, she didn't have a bad life by any means but she got herself into trouble and the downward spiral just kept going and going and before she knew it things were out of control and she was at a point of no return. Sure, I wanted to shake her throughout and scream "Tell somebody!" but it was made perfectly clear why she didn't.

The people in Sid's life are all some of the best developed secondary characters I've had the pleasure of reading as well. Corey Livingston was just amazing. He was kind, caring and yet when he needed to he had just the right amount of pressure to get his point across and open Sid up. I loved him, I really did. Sid's friends made me angry but once again, I didn't necessarily agree with them shutting Sid out like they did, but I understood why they did it, so I could go along with it and it felt natural. A real standout for me was Sid's mom. She was a parent and she was 100% present, she was there when her daughter needed to talk and she was very lighthearted and that was definitely endearing for me.

What Happens Next deals with self-image, rape, eating disorders and just the trials and tribulations of being a teenager so well. Every thread of this story came together perfectly in the end and every aspect was handled so well. I appreciated how brutally honest it was and was so happy that it was written in the first person because I really felt as if I was Sid. This is an amazing debut novel and I will definitely be looking out for whatever Colleen Clayton puts out in the future.

You can read all of my reviews at Alluring Reads.

A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for *Layali*.
515 reviews90 followers
February 25, 2013
I read this book in two days. It was that amazing.

I'm not sure if I can do this book justice from this review.

Giselle's Review really sums up most of how I feel. And if it weren't for her review I may not have ever picked this book up. So a big thank you to her.

Bottom line, this book was about what happens after something horrifying occurs. It goes over how Sid deals with it, and she is by far one of the most well developed characters I've read about. She was so real and easy to relate to. Even the secondary characters were wonderful. Corey? Swoon! He's the type of guy that should get an award just for being him. He was just perfect for Sid.

I thought that the novel would be extremely sad and have a hopeless feeling to it. It was quite the opposite. Although there were some sad moments (literally had me trying to hold back tears), there were also some laugh out loud moments that I loved. This book is about living. It is about how life goes on and we have to somehow find the courage to start making the best of it. And there are people that can help you get through it. People who won't judge you for what happened. People who will love you no matter what. People who want to be alive with you. People who make it all worth it.

Simply amazing. I can't wait to see more work from this author.
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