Title: Sometimes It Happens
Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Publisher: Simon Pulse
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, Ryan, 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 Ryan, 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.
This book has been on my to-read list for a very, very long time. Looking at Goodreads, it’s apparently been there since January of 2011. That’s over two years before I actually read it. It’s survived many quick clean-ups of my to-read shelf, always sticking around because it sounded interesting enough and it kind of makes me sad to get rid of the books that I’ve been looking at forever. And, while it definitely wasn’t as good as I was hoping, there’s still a small part of me that’s happy I never deleted it without actually reading it.
OK, first up: Hannah and Ava. The friendship that makes the romance such a big deal. I feel like many of the books I’ve been reading lately have taken the loud, overly-confident girl, paired her with the quiet, good girl protagonist, and have called it a great friendship. Now, if you know me, I have plenty of issues with a lot of friendships in YA, but it seems like it’s been really noticeable lately. The two girls have nothing in common, it seems – they mostly seem to be friends because they’ve been friends forever. Now, I do think there are moments when the girls seem to be friends because they genuinely like each other and have fun together, but it’s still kind of far and few between.
Also, this book is about cheating. No easy way around it – Hannah becomes friends with a girl who was cheated on by her boyfriend (with her own best friend – hmm, why does that sound familiar?) and Hannah is heartbroken at the beginning of the summer because she catches her boyfriend cheating on her. If you hate cheating no matter what, this is probably not the book for you. In my case, I was able to handle the cheating because it didn’t seem glorified – Hannah never seemed to think that she deserved Noah so much more than Ava. This is about the complications of cheating, or at least that’s how I saw it. Yes, the relationship between Noah and Hannah in the flashbacks seemed like a regular flirtation-turning-into-something more, but there’s always that undercurrent of Ava hanging around, reminding them that it’s wrong. Even in the present-day chapters, after Hannah and Noah have cheated (not really a spoiler, based on the few couple of present-day chapters, so don’t worry), Hannah doesn’t think that she’s the one who deserves Noah because she understands him or the world revolves around her and therefore she must be the ultimate winner – no, she feels awful about it. I may not always like her, but I do think she genuinely feels awful about what she did to her best friend.
I’m not sure how I feel about the back-and-forth past-and-present chapters. Sometimes it’s nice to see things in the past and the present and see how they go together, but other times it kind of messes with the flow. For example, sometimes I just want to see more of what happens in the past, before everything gets screwed up, before I go back to the screwed-up present, but the pattern remains the same. No matter what, you have to wait another chapter to go back to whichever time period you were in. It just kind of messes with any flow you might have going on.
Overall, I think this book could have been much better. I wasn’t a big fan of the characters, which was my main hurdle when it came to really enjoying this book. At the same time, though, it was a slightly interesting look at cheating. I’m not sure the cheating was always handled well – especially when it came to the sophomore Hannah’s boyfriend cheated on her with – but it was handled nonetheless and never seemed to be glorified like some YA and NA books do. I think I’ll check out some more books from Lauren Barndholdt in the future, I just may stray away from any books that are solely-character-driven.