That’s Not What Happened
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Genre/Themes/Demo: YA, Contemporary
Release Date: August 28th 2018
Page Count: 336
Format: ARC via the Publisher
It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story–that she died proclaiming her faith. But it’s not true. I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did–and didn’t–happen that day. Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .
What I Liked
The all too-relevant topic. How sad is it that school shootings are as common as they are. So common, that there are multiple young adult novels being released that centre around the same topic? All of these books are super important, especially for teenagers, who unfortunately seem to be exposed to this terrible issue the most. While it is unfortunate that so many young adult novels are discussing this almost surreal topic, it is also super important that this topic is being discussed.
The representation. There were quite a few characters within this story and there was some great representation. There were characters of colour, a character that identifies as asexual, another character who is blind and another in a wheelchair. It was great to see characters of different cultures, different sexualities and with various disabilities that made the story feel realistic and accurate.
What I Didn’t Like
Slow paced. It took me a lot longer to read this novel than I would have hoped. It started off strong and was actually quite intriguing and fast paced at first, however, it started to fall flat after the first quarter of the novel.
The writing style. The stylistic choice of having the book itself be a letter/story that Lee wrote was an interesting choice. The problem here was that it didn’t really feel like a letter or anything that was personally written by the main character. Even the letters from other characters within this story felt off. I don’t know about you, but if I’m writing a letter recounting my experience of anything, I wouldn’t be writing any form of dialogue. The writing just felt strange and out of place considering the concept.
Lack of originality. While this topic is unfortunately extremely relevant at the moment, I felt as though That’s Not What Happened didn’t really bring anything new to the table. There are a lot of young adult books discussing the topic of school shootings being released lately, and while they are all important…they’re all kind of starting to blend together for me personally. In order for these stories to be impactful and stick with the reader after finishing the book, there needs to be something unique and unfortunately, That’s Not What Happened just wasn’t there for me.
Characters felt bland. Honestly, none of the characters really stood out to me or felt very memorable. Yes, there was some great representation, but the characters themselves were a little bland and not very memorable.
Overall, That’s Not What Happened is an important book that deals with important topics, however, it failed to stand out among other books that deal with the same issues.
About The Author
Kody Keplinger was born and raised in small-town western Kentucky. She wrote her first novel, The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), during her senior year of high school. She now lives with her German shepherd, Corey, in New York City, where she writes full-time and teaches the occasional writing workshop. When she isn’t writing, Kody is probably exploring the city, eating Thai food, or creating a new plan to become Tina Fey’s best friend. Kody is active on social media, so feel free to reach out to her on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.
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Thank you for reading!