That's Not What Happened
By Kody Keplinger
An addictive page-turner from bestselling US sensation Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF and RUNTweet
It was a good book
The book is written through the eyes of the main character Lee after a high school shooting in the USA.Although the book is written for teenagers, don't let this put you off, I found the book really enjoyable, although I was disappointed by the ending, which left me wondering what would happen to 'the letters' for that reason I have given 4 stars.
I liked the narrative voice of this book and how it worked through a young person’s realistic thought processes. A great idea for a novel to explore the reality of the aftermath of such an atrocity.
When I saw that this book was aimed at young adult readers I really didn't expect to enjoy it. How wrong I was. I loved this book, which I found difficult to put down. The characters were well drawn, and the subject matter very sensitively explored. It was certainly thought provoking, and the story stayed with me long after I put the book down. Highly recommended.
This novel is about the aftermath of a massacre at a high school in America.
Going forward from the tragedy there are various misconceptions about what happened that day. Lee one of the survivors has carried the guilt of what really happened to her friend and another student.Dealing with that day has had a lasting impact on her, but recents events and the potential outfall of them means she feels she must right a terrible wrong.
Most of the survivors have grouped together since the tragedy 3 years ago. One of them has asked Lee to read a scholarship application. That is when she realises that she has been totally consumed in what happened to her that day, the misconceptions are not just about her friend who died, she realises that they were all affected in differing ways.
The book concentrates on the survivors stories, there is very little on why the gunman did what he did. The chapters are interspersed with the victims, their personalities and characters, this builds up the suspense really well, will Lee be able to do what she set out to do, knowing that it will cause ructions or is it really out of her hands ?
During the Virgil County High School massacre, nine people died and six survived. Lee is one of the survivors. The media portrayal of what happened on that fateful day is not quite accurate, but it has become the accepted version of events. Three years down the line, the parents of Sarah, one of the victims (and Lee’s best friend), are intending to publish a book about their daughter and this prompts Lee to contemplate whether now is the time to set the record straight.
This is a very unique, creative and powerful book and I loved it. It may be aimed at the teen market but, as an adult, I was completely captivated. It just seemed so real. Thankfully I have no idea if the emotions that the survivors were feeling were realistic, but they came across as being utterly plausible. The plot has been cleverly constructed and the delivery very well executed, resulting in a very unusual and absolutely gripping piece of literature. In fact I couldn’t put it down and really didn’t want it to end. Not only was the story compelling, the characters were also totally believable. Each had their own individual well-developed personality and their own ways of coping with the trauma they had been through. When it came down to it they could only really rely on each other as they were the only ones who knew how it really felt to live through the emotions of being a survivor. Not only has the author managed to write an interesting novel, she has also tackled some moral and personal issues surrounding truth. For example, should the truth be told at any cost or is the hurt that exposing the truth will cause a factor which should be taken into consideration? I thought these difficult concepts were dealt with sympathetically and with sensitivity and compassion. Finally I think we could all learn a lesson about how newsworthy sensations can become distorted, even without any intent to do so.
For some reason there were a lot of negative comments about the book online, largely revolving around the fact that it bore too close a resemblance to the real life events surrounding a similar incident. As I was completely unaware of this piece of news I was reading the book unencumbered by any predispositions and I thought it was amazing. The other criticism in reviews was that the readers did not engage emotionally with the characters. I completely disagree with this as well. I thought the characters were well developed and eminently believable. Granted it wasn’t a tear-jerker but there was no need for it to be – in my view their sentiments and feelings were described realistically but without an overdose of emotion. What did I dislike about the book? Nothing whatsoever!
I have never read any Kody Keplinger before but, my goodness gracious me, if any of her other books even capture a fraction of the brilliance of this one, she is soon going to become my new favourite author. Well done Kody and thank you so much.
Originally I gave this book 3 stars but after mulling it over for a couple of days changed it to 4 because I think it’s very brave of the author to write this novel when she so easily be attacked by maniac US Christians who will not tolerate any criticism of themselves or their bigoted version of Christianity.
It is so ironic that Biblically Jesus said he was ‘The way,the truth and the life’ because So many Christians will not accept evidence which contradicts the version of the truth they prefer, even if it it proven to be lies. I think this book is very much of its time - the Trumpian and Brexit era of fake news, science denial, false promises and religious charade disguising moral turpitude.
Of course it does not just deal with religious fundamentalism in small town America, it also comments on the US’s appalling gun laws, on bullying in schools, the value of truth and the importance of sensitivity to the needs of victims.
There is the little journey into asexuality but I feel this was a diversion put their to assist with a plot and relationship between the androgynous you named Lee and her friend. I think it was unnecessary, trying to get the book to do too much. I liked the structure of the letters but felt that Lee went on about her spiralling thoughts too much, Marian Keyes deals with depression more cleverly in Mystery of Mercy Street as a comparison, but this may be to do with the experience of the writer.
It did make me sufficiently interested in where the author started and where she’s going with her writing to investigate The Duff. It would be more interesting for her to move outside of school and the youthful female voice and see if her writing still works.