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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

The book title sounds very inspiring, to make things happen. If you want it, go for it. If it feels right, then maybe it is. Dream big, aim high. These are the words I’m thinking of as I come across the title. And then I realize, the story is more of the living-in-the-moment fiction, than the planning-for-the-future I picture in my mind.

Title: When It Happens
Author: Susane Colasanti
Pages: 320
Source: Bought


At the start of her senior year, Sara wants two things: to get into a top college and to find true love. Tobey also wants two things in his senior year: to win Battle of the Bands and to make Sara fall in love with him. A popular jock named Dave, though, moves in on Sara first. But Tobey's quirky wit and big blue eyes are hard for Sara to ignore. Plus, he gets the little things that matter to her - like why she loves the Lloyd Dobler boom-box scene in the movie Say Anything....Can a slacker rock-star wanna be win the heart of a pretty class brain like Sara?

In a nutshell, this is what happens in When It Happens (the play in words are intentional). The best friends are mapping out their high school senior year. Sara asks the universe to make her dream to be with Dave, the cool new kid in school, come true, only to realize in the middle of the relationship that Dave is not all that. Sara begins to see his true, ugly colors, the same time Tobey, a rock star-wannabe makes eyes with her. She breaks up with Dave, gets together with Tobey. They discuss their college plans, and when graduation finally comes around, they’re still together.

Reading it starts out great, and then it gets boring, to a point where trying to finish it is exhausting. There are several occasions where I almost quit the book during the first part, because the first fifty pages covered just two days of the story. It is too narrative.

The pace does pick up eventually, but the redundancy takes too much effort to read. Here’s why: every chapter alternates between Tobey and Sara’s points of view. What you read in the previous chapter is likely the same thing you read in the next chapter, only from the other person’s perception. The thing is, instead of an added, personal insight on whoever is narrating, nothing new is revealed, as whatever the current narrator is feeling, we already may have guessed earlier.

Also, the shift in point of view every chapter gets confusing. Sara and Tobey have the same tone. They both are going through the same phase of ostracism. They sound alike, that only in the middle of the chapter do you realize who’s telling the story.

The main characters also pose as reading challenges. Sara’s entire personality is not explored at all. She does not have an easy relationship with her mom, but Sara seems okay with that. She’s even more worried on whether she’s getting into NYU than trying to build a relationship with her mother. She’s even more consumed about sleeping with Tobey for the first time.

Tobey on the other hand sounds more of a pervy boyfriend than a romantic hero. His constant musings about sex and Sara, and sex with Sara makes me seriously doubt his true intentions. He thinks about it more than he thinks about his music. College applications are not even on top of his priorities. This makes Tobey a shallow character. Instead of rooting for him to end up with Sara, I’m having second thoughts of how Sara should end her senior year. It seems like Tobey is more focused in getting into bed with Sara then getting in a serious, loving relationship with her. Proof? Here’s his thought: “...though sex takes up the largest allocation of my pie-chart brain.”

Sara and Tobey’s love story peaked prematurely. After that, When It Happens lost its steam. Susane Colasanti injects another conflict (college plans and sex), but it fails to build up enough momentum for a satisfactory ending. If the story started out with Sara and Tobey already a couple and then they go through high school worrying about which college or university to go to and building up enough romantic scenarios that eventually lead them to be, it may have worked. The Dave angle could have been skipped altogether.

My rating

Content (plot, story flow, character):

I have one more Susane Colasanti book in my to-be-read list, and just because this story didn’t do it for me, or to borrow Sara’s words, didn’t make my record skip, I’m not closing my doors. But, in the meantime, I’m giving When It Happens a 2 out of 5.

Bad: Read, but disliked

Book Cover:

One redeeming trait of When It Happens is the cover. It’s pretty. Very “teenage love”. The partially hidden couple adds to the dreamy element, that it makes it easy to replace the faceless characters with images of you and whoever you’re currently fantasizing about.

Yes - The Goddess Approves!


  1. I have the same feeling for Colasanti books. I wanted to like them, but I end up not liking them My main beef about them is the way it was written. It annoys me to no end that the characters talk this way (from Take Me There, her other book):


    So I’m like, “But you are hurting her.”

    And he’s all, “That’s not my fault.”

    And I’m like, “Well then whose fault is it?”


    Ehhh. Maybe I'm spoiled with other YA novels that has better prose. Still, this one doesn't really work for me.

    I'm willing to give one more Colasanti a try, but if I still get the same feeling after, I'm quitting. ^^

  2. Sorry you didn't enjoy this one. :( It's my favourite Susane Colasanti book. I find that with her writing style people either like it or aren't such huge fans.

  3. Eh, this one sounded really good from the synopsis. It's a shame you didn't like it - I probably wouldn't either. Maybe I should give one of her other books a try. =x Great review though!

    Also, you two won an award at my blog. :)

  4. I've read Susane's other book Something Like Fate and I also had the hard time liking it but there are redeeming qualities of the book that made me enjoy it. She makes simple storyline so I expect more from the content. It's more of an easy read about teenage love. Oh well, sad you didn't like this.

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I love getting comments from my readers and fellow bookworms, and I try my best to respond to all of them. Feel free to give me a piece of your thoughts. Also, this is an award-free blog. I simply don't have the time to highlight them anymore, but thank you for thinking of my blog!

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