Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt
Release Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
This novel opens on the first day of Hannah’s senior year, but the story really starts on the last day of her junior year. That’s when Hannah not only gets dumped by her boyfriend, Sebastian, but she also finds out her best friend, Ava, is going to be gone for the entire summer. But Ava’s boyfriend, Noah, is definitely around—and such a good guy that he snags Hannah a job at the diner where he works. Hannah and Noah move from coworkers, to friends… and one night, to something more.
Now it’s back to school, where Hannah will see Sebastian, Ava, and Noah all in one place. Over the course of the day secrets and betrayals are revealed, and alliances are broken and reformed. In the end, Hannah will learn a lot about love, friendship…and herself.
Hannah's summer was all planned out. She and her best friend, Ava, decided to forgo summer jobs and spend the months sun bathing and relaxing together while finding time to hang out with their respective hunky-hunky boyfriends. But when Hannah finds her boyfriend, Sebastian, making out with some bikini-clad sophomore she completely falls apart. Add to that Ava's sudden out-of-nowhere plans to go work at a summer camp, and Hannah is left alone to brood and chow on truly epic quantities of ice cream and Keebler Elf cookies.
Enter Ava's boyfriend, Noah, who not only convinces Hannah to work with him at Cooley's Diner, but goes out of his way to try and help Hannah out of her self-pitying-stupid-cheating-ex-boyfriend-slump. It all starts out innocently enough, but Noah and Hannah clearly have undeniable chemistry, and overtime, well... the title really says it all.
The book alternates chapters between the first day of school and the summer (starting with the cheating fiasco, moving up to the present). I found this method surprisingly easy to follow, and I sprinted through each chapter, wanting to know what would happen in each respective time period. This read was clean, fun, fast, and easy (mostly), but it also felt truthful. There are consequences for every choice we make, and those play out in difficult ways over the course of the book. I was a little confused about the apparent secrecy over what happened between Noah and Hannah. Between the title and the really gratuitous foreshadowing, I'm pretty sure we all know what the "it" in Sometimes It Happens is.
This book raises a lot of challenging issues that I struggled with in high school, many of which I still struggle with today. What do we do when we've changed, but a friendship hasn't? How to we make room for our new selves in an old box? In the Ava-Hannah friendship, Ava has always been the one to take charge and hold most of the power, but when she goes away for the summer, Hannah has to find a way to be all those things for herself. Ava wants things to stay the same, but Hannah can't go back, which causes obvious friction. And what about boys? Is it okay to go back to a mediocre relationship because the predictability of it is comforting, or do we owe it to ourselves never to settle? And seriously, what do you do when you've found your match in a person who is off-limits? What lines are worth crossing for love?
For a fast an easy read, I thought that this book was wonderfully complex and rich. Noah, Hannah, and Lacey were all wonderful, but the vibrancy of the story also lived in the fullness of its other characters: Ava, Sebastian, Hannah's mom, Riker, Danielle, and even the "Sophomores Do It Better" girl. As for Noah? I totally get it, he is pretty squee-worthy. Perhaps I should be far too mature for this, but the 13-year-old girl in me just loves a good ol' fashion show down with two men fighting over the same lady. For those of you who read my review of The One That I Want, this book felt similar in content, but was a more mature, nuanced version.
If you are looking for a whirl-wind summer read, or perhaps something to remind you of those turbulent high school days, I would definitely suggest Lauren Barnholdt's Sometimes It Happens. I give it 4 out of 5 Stars. (If you wait three more months, you can catch it in paperback on June 12, 2012!)