Monday, May 14, 2012

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti



When It HappensWhen It Happens by Susane Colasanti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Adorable isn't a word I use often to describe books. In Majaland, the word is not even a compliment in that context– it’s almost insulting, really, like calling a guy cute. But there have been a few exceptions along the way, and When It Happens happens to be one of them. It’s just… adorable.

Told from alternating POVs, this is a story about Sara and Tobey’s senior year in high school. They both start the year single, but Sara has a small crush on Dave, the new boy, and Tobey has a huge crush on Sara. The thing is, while Dave has both the looks and the popularity, Tobey spends his time playing chess with his best friend Matt and chokes up every time Sara comes near him. He gets very nervous when she’s watching and often does the craziest, most embarrassing things, like falling UP stairs and dropping all his books at her feet.

Our poor Tobey doesn’t have it easy. Getting a girl to notice him while she’s busy dating the blond-and-popular – especially a girl who’s been shy and withdrawn all her life, but seems to be enjoying being at the center of attention now – is no easy task, that’s for sure. But all those ours of playing chess and strategizing are finally paying off – Tobey is very good at planning ahead and rearranging players in a way that will checkmate the other king.

When It Happens is everything contemporary YA should be. It’s very realistic and it has a set of extremely well-developed characters, the language is straightforward, easy to digest, and used in a way that contributes to characterization. It is Susane Colasanti’s debut novel, first published in 2006, but I never would have guessed that based on the narrative alone. It radiates experience, maturity, but most of all, understanding. She’s not one of those authors who set out to write a young adult novel without any kind of insight into the mind of teens.

Out of the two, Tobey was my favorite. I suppose I have a soft spot for boys who know exactly what they want and how to get it, but are as far from arrogant as they can possibly be. As for Sara, although she made some stupid choices, her behavior was something I’d expect from a shy and withdrawn person who suddenly finds herself in the spotlight. In other words, her actions didn’t strike me as something Colasanti did just to further complicate the plot, but rather as something that came from genuine understanding of both teens and shy people in general.

Alternating POV narration is always a bit risky, in my opinion. It can be very hard to separate voices of two characters with similar backgrounds, but that wasn’t a problem here. This is another point where Colasanti used language to her advantage: she made Sara sound like a girl and Tobey like a boy, and she made it very easy to tell their voices apart.

Truth be told, contemporary YA is never my first choice. Or my second, or my third. But if I do decide to read it, this is exactly the kind of book I want. I recommend it to all my Vanilla Queens.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, Scholastic UK, for review purposes.

23 comments:

  1. Hehhe thanks for the rec Maja this definitely sounds like my sort of book! I actually didn't know it was her debut novel either, luckily my copy is waiting for me at the library! Fab review! I'm glad it's a contemporary YA you enjoyed! Plenty more to look forward to right? ;)

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  2. This sounds like a very fun read. While I haven't delved into straight YA contemporary romance my daughters love it, and so i will recommend it to them. Awesome review!

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  3. Awww, this DOES sound adorable. I love awkward chess nerd boys. YA contemporary romance usually isn't even my...tenth choice but you make this sound so fun and enjoyable. I'll have to keep it in mind for the next time I'm feeling vanilla. :)

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    1. Haha, I didn't exactly have you in mind when I mentioned vanilla queens, Catie! I was thinking of Jasprit and Rachel. If anything, you're a sci-fi/dark fantasy queen. But this really is super fun, and the characters are smart and very realistic. So give it a try next time you're in the mood.

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  4. Cute boys and adorable books... the perfect combo! ;) Seriously, though, this book sounds interesting. We're alike in a lot of things book(and not so book, it seems)-wise, and contemporary not being our first choice is just another thing in common. However, when I do take the plunge, I want easy and fast books that will make me smile and want to "awww"... and I think this one would do the job. Falling up the stairs? That scene gotta be a winner!

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  5. Might need to read this soon. I need something light but still substanstial. I think this might be the one. I loved reading Contemporary before I got so involved with the dystopian world and the paranormal and they're not being very good to me at the moment. I think I just need to go back to my roots. Fantastic review, Maja! :)

    PS. Sorry about that deleted comment. I posted it at the wrong place. :p

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  6. Ah! I love this book! Its what caused me to start reading several contemporary stories that last few years! Its such a chill, fun and exciting book! This is an incredible review! Wonderful job! I like Tobey better too! (but still like Sara)
    Rachel
    some other good contemporary novels i love (for reading recommendations) are Megan Meade's Guide by Kate Brian, the brilliant story of the Ivy Series by Lauren Kunze and Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt.

    (i was listening to turn back time while writing this comment, such a wonderful song!)
    Old follower!

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  7. You know I am not among The Vanilla Queens. However, I think I would love Tobey. I lile those nerdy types, Like I think Jeff in Chicago Vamps is adorable. Yeah I know totally unrelated. Suzanne is an author I want to check out so I might just try this, however, I just read another review for one of her books called Keep Holding On about bullying that I want to check out as well, so I migh just do both!

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  8. LOL Maja! Sometimes I think that guys would find it insulting to be called adorable too -- but other times there's just no other word to describe them, and I have to be honest and say that I love those adorkable and sweet boys with all my heart! x) And even though they can be indistinguishable sometimes, I actually really adore alternating POVs because they add to that "adorable" factor!

    (That, and getting into a guy's mind is always fun!)

    Amazing review, Maja! This sounds like the perfect read to bump up my (proudly) growing list of contemporaries! :) <3

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  9. I really enjoyed this review and I know that you mean it because I've read your comments on my contemp reviews and I know you don't love contemp. This is going to the top of my to-read list and I am going to order a copy right now!

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  10. A good contemporary romance is hard to find. I just read a few that were "meh" and bland. I actually think I got this one on my bookshelf. I found it at a library book sale. I think I'll have to find it and read it soon. Tobey sounds cute and someone that I'd probably would have a crush on in high school.

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  11. So glad you enjoyed this one, Maja! I have this book for so long but still haven't read it. I wasn't that enthused to read it but after reading your review I think I might push it up a bit higher on my tbr! Great review, Maja! :))

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  12. LOL!

    Majaland is one of my favorite places to visit because I always find myself thoroughly entertained! :)

    I can't believe that Susane Colasanti! Why does she have to be a writing machine. I mean, I had a story idea very similar to this one, that I've been developing in my head for the past 3 years. Guess I'm gonna have to scrap it now. Just as well, I don't think I could have gotten the distinctive voice part right anyway. *sighs*

    Fun review, Maja. I have yet to read any thing by Colasanti since contemp is usually about my forth or fifth choice too, but my sister has and she's a big fan. I think I might start with this one because I'm in love with Tobey already. He sounds better than adorable. I'd say he is more ADORKABLE! And I can't resist that.

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  13. So glad you liked a vanilla, Maja! Now I feel obligated to read an Urban Fantasy to make us even. :)

    I'm looking at the comments above and loving the word: adorkable! Too cute.

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  14. This one sounds interesting! I'm really into contemporary YA at the moment and may have to check this one out! Great review and glad you liked it :D

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  15. I'm such a sucker of alternating POVs thanks to Cath Crowley. I've been wary of this author because of less than favorable reviews on goodreads, but this one looks really cute -- and not in a bad way! :) Only in Majaland would cute and adorable be insults, lol. Great review, Maja!!

    -Mags

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  16. Ha! I fall up stairs all the time. And choke on my own spit. I'd definitely like this Tobey guy! Baha. I love alternating POVs though especially when it's girl/guy. I haven't seen this book before I saw it on your Goodreads I think I'd really like it.

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  17. Look at the cover! I love it! I'm definitely going to read this one. :D

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  18. Gorgeous cover and that review, talked me in to it. Great review hun! im adding this one up! xox

    Ƹ̴Ӂ̴ƷFICBOOKREVIEWSƸ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ

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  19. I think I wanted to read this book a while back, not sure why did I stop. Maybe I'll try another time, I ant to have as much fun with it as you did ;)) And this cover is really cute too!

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  20. I could've sworn I commented here but then I realized it was one of my long comments that got deleted by either the computer in our home office or Blogger and then I was filled with too much rage to write it all out again. Anyway, I really wonder how I'd like reading a SC book. I listened to one and it was beyond frustrating and filled with annoying little things that made me kind of hate it overall. I do want to try this eventually, though, because I do like contemp YA...at least, I think I like it more than you do:) Also, little known fact--elementary-aged me was a chess champion so I have a huge soft spot for the chess player characters.

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  21. WHEN IT HAPPENS is a wonderful story told in the fresh voices of Tobey and Sara. It's a romance, certainly, but there's more to it than that. Tobey and Sara are fantastic, likeable, and believable characters, with lives outside of each other, which adds an extra dimension to what would otherwise just be one of a million cheesy romance novels, but is instead a wonderfully written and almost too-good-to-be-true story of two teenagers looking for love.
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