Title: What Happens Next
Author: Colleen Clayton
Release Date: October 2012
Sid Murphy is the opposite of a stereotypical cheerleader. She isn’t thin and dainty, and she doesn’t have the overwhelming optimism that cheerleaders are supposed to project. She is tall and big-boned, with “crazy red hair,” an “ample chest,” and a “huge big” butt. Despite this, she loves cheerleading. And she is devastated when it is among the many things she loses after the school ski trip.
Sid’s physique has always intimidated her male classmates, so she is delighted when she ends up on a ski lift next to the older, mature, and very attractive Dax Windsor. Best of all, he seems to like her. She sneaks out that night to attend the party he is throwing, only to be drugged and raped. When she returns to school, she has to face not only the consequences of sneaking out, but her own quilt and horror. She is unable to tell anyone what happened, so she deals with it the only way she can: by taking it out on herself. Sid blames her large build for what happened, so she starts running to lose weight. Soon, she develops a serious eating disorder. In her time of need, she receives comfort from an unexpected new friend named Corey Livingston, a.k.a. “The Living Stoner.”
One of the greatest joys of reading comes from being able to experience new situations. I never, ever want to be raped, but part of me still wants to know what it feels like. Novels like What Happens Next allow us to do that. Sid is a very lovable character, with her self-depreciating humor and knack for getting into awkward situations. I found myself rooting for her throughout the whole book, both empathizing with the motives behind her actions and begging her to stop torturing herself.
Sid’s situation is very realistic, and many readers who have been sexually assaulted will be able to identify with her. That said, my only criticism of the book is that it is very clearly trying to inform readers about how it feels to be a rape victim. It’s not a novel with themes about sexual assault worked into it, but a message about rape with a story built around it. But this is only one small mark against Clayton’s engaging and enlightening debut novel.
Pre-order What Happens Next from Book Passage