What Happens Next | Colleen Clayton | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What Happens Next | Colleen Clayton | Book ReviewWhat Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
on October 9th 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Dating & Sex, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Sexual Abuse
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

How can you talk about something that you can't remember?Before the ski trip, Cassidy "Sid" Murphy was a cheerleader (on the bottom of the pyramid, but still...) and a straight-A student, with two of the best friends a girl could ask for.
When Sid finds herself on a ski lift with hunky local college guy, Dax Windsor, she's thrilled. "Come to a party with me," he tells her, but Dax isn't what he seems. He takes everything from Sid-including a lock of her perfect red curls-and she can't remember any of it.
After the ski trip, Sid is an insomniac and an obsessive late-night runner, unable to relate to her old friends.
Caught in a downward spiral, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey "The Living Stoner" Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey--slacker, baker, total dreamboat--Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if only she could shake the nightmares, everything would be perfect...
Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton's debut is a stunning story of moving on after the unthinkable happens.

I am sort of surprised at myself for not reading What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton sooner, given my interest in books that relate to the things I currently teach about. However, I am a firm subscriber in the better late than never mantra. ALSO! April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so it is the perfect time to let you all know about this contemporary novel dealing in a rather tough issue. I’m grateful that books like these come out every year, because it’s essential that we break the silence around sexual victimization, especially as so many people experience it.

Sid is hitting the slopes with her class and her best friends. She’s excited because she’s never been skiing before but has managed to save for this trip. While there she meets this guy named Dax who tells her he is a college student and is throwing a party. He also lays the compliments on her. She’s charmed by it because she doesn’t normally get attention from boys. So, against her friends’ wishes, Sid goes to the party. Only there’s no party. She wakes up the next day with no memory of what happened the night before. What Happens Next is the story of how Sid deals with her sexual assault, in unhealthy ways, and how, eventually she begins to recover and make the move from victim to survivor.

What I like about the crop of novels that deal with rape and sexual assault is that the main characters represent a wide variety of girls. There is no specific type of girl who gets victimized, like you can’t just look at someone and be like – hey that person is a victim. Colleen Clayton paints the main character of What Happens Next, Sid, as someone who when we first meet her is strong, close with her friends, and part of a loving family. Sid might not come from money, but she’s got a lot of love in her household. She’s someone that I would be friends with pre-victimization. After she’s assaulted, she blows off her friends. She ends up with a reputation around school, because teenagers can be assholes. She also drops one of her classes to be an A/V assistant. Further, she takes up running and not eating, losing an scary amount of weight. So, I think that post-victimization, I’d still want to be her friend, but I’d be concerned. Like, her friends don’t know what has happened to her or why she’s different, so I can’t totally fault them.

I think that as someone who works with sexual assault victims, I have the capacity to accurately assess Clayton’s portrayal of victims in What Happens Next. Personally, she does a great job. Here’s the thing, not every victim reacts the same to their assault or has the same experience afterward. I loved that Clayton shows Sid having other problems as a result of what happened to her. I mentioned about how Sid takes up running and also develops a messed up relationship with food — well that’s actually one thing that some survivors go through, because of the whole need to be able to control at least something in their lives. I also liked that Sid was so nervous to talk to her friends and family about it, even though it’s a logical step to take. Some people don’t always think normally after being assaulted, about things relating to their assault. Plus, with all the victim blaming that goes on in our society, can you really fault Sid for being scared to trust?

Now, things are not all doom and gloom for Sid. There’s this boy that she meets – Corey Livingston. He’s a slacker who is also an A/V assistant. Now, Corey and Sid do not immediately hit it off, in fact she curses him out. YET YOU GUYS. SLOW BURN SWOONS. That’s pretty much all I will say, oh oh, and the fact that this does do a little something to dispel the myth that sexual assault victims will never ever enjoy sex again. Like I said, total myth. And totally swoonworthy, sweet romance that I LOVED.

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton is actually a well-written book with the subject of sexual assault at it’s heart. I thought that she handled very sensitive topics with honesty and empathy. I never got the sense that Sid was blamed for what happened to her, although she felt at fault for it. I think that if you’re looking for a contemporary book that deals with heavier issues, but doesn’t feel too touchy feely or like a tries-too-hard, you should check out What Happens Next.

Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley

Other reviews of What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton:

Chick Loves Lit – “Highly recommended
Rather Be Reading – “Clayton does an impeccable job of developing a very real depiction of what happens when a girl is victimized.”
Nick’s Book Blog – “it’s something that I think every young girl (and boy) needs to read” – FYI, I love this review because he says it’s something every boy needs to read and I love that because sexual assault is not just a woman’s issue. It’s an EVERY person issue.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. okay! damn, you’re convincing! i want to read this book now. it sounds just about perfect because it’s not all sunshine & roses, but the word SWOON is what did it. 🙂

  2. I’m actually reading this now and while I had a difficult time connecting with Sid at first, I have about 18 pages left (I had to leave it at home this morning because I didn’t want to carry two books around with me all day :(), and I am really into it and liking it. When she realized that it said “Cleveland” on her ski jacket my heart broke for her. The whole book makes me so sad for Sid and sad for our society, but the romance with Corey? Love it. Lots of sexytimes books are fun, but the slow burn romances are definitely my favorite. Great review!

  3. I love when you review books about sexual assault, because you have a professional lens on how it was handled, and I love getting that viewpoint. I’m doing to need to read this one for sure!

  4. I don’t read too many heavy issue books, because, well, they make me sad. I mean, I think that’s the point. Life isn’t all hearts and bears. But I’m just not always ready to tackle something like that. But sometimes I do want to read something like that, and when I do, What Happens Next will be at the top of my list.

    Thanks for the review.

  5. I’ve certainly been meaning to read this one, especially after I heard Colleen read an excerpt at an event. It sounds like it’s a book with a sense of humor, even as it tackles tough issues. I’m glad that the situation is portrayed and handled realistically, and I can’t wait till I get to read this one too!

  6. I’ve read so many good things about this book and yours is another fantastic review of it. I really like the realistic portrayal and the fact that the author obviously really thought about her MC.

  7. Wonderful review! I really appreciated reading this as you were able to place the book into context as someone who works with sexual assault victims. I think that mentality makes a lot of sense to me, but it’s also super tragic that sexual assault is so frequent and yet not a topic that many want to explore. I do hope I’m able to read this book in the near future.

  8. Oh yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. It was one of my favorites last year. I thought she portrayed sexual assault quite well. I have quite a few friends that have been victims of sexual assault and I was very pleased that Clayton did a good job with it. I did have some issues with the eating/exercise aspect, not because that doesn’t happen because it definitely does, but I think some of the portrayal was a bit inaccurate. Either way, this was a story I loved and I can’t wait to see what else Clayton writes.

  9. I really enjoyed this one. I loved that it dealt with such a serious issue but still managed to stay somewhat lighthearted. Sid was a great character. It’s awesome that you had such great insight going into the story and loved it. That’s high praise!