That’s Not What Happened – Kody Keplinger

BKMRK gives a different proof away every day of YALC. Friday, the first day, they gave away copies of That’s Not What Happened via raffle. I was actually not lucky enough to win one of them, but I saw it on NetGalley a few days later, and was approved for an eGalley, which I was delighted about.

It’s probably a little morbid to say that I like books about school shootings, but I do. This Is Where It Ends was one of my absolute favourite books the year I read it, and I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Hate List, Nineteen Minutes, We Need to Talk About Kevin… do I sound enough like a psychopath yet? So That’s Not What Happened was always going to be a winner for me. Especially since it approached a school shooting from a very different perspective. Rather than being about the immediate aftermath, That’s Not What Happened meets the survivors several years after it happened, and explores the impact of that dreadful day on their lives in the years that followed.

That’s Not What Happened – Kody Keplinger

40186317.jpgSix survived to tell the story, but who knows the truth? The next hotly anticipated YA novel from bestselling US sensation Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF and RUN

It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story – that she died proclaiming her faith.

But it’s not true.

I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did – and didn’t – happen that day.

Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .

I massively enjoyed this look at a school shooting three years down the line. Lee, our main character, was only fourteen when a lone gunman razed her school, killing nine, including two teachers and her best friend, Sarah McHale, as they held hands and hid in a bathroom. I’ve read a lot of school shooting books, and this one took a really interesting approach. Not only did it have next to no details about the shooter (not even his name), the actual plot of the book is set three years after the shooting occurred.
Based somewhat on the story of Cassie Bernall, who was mistakenly identified as having declared her faith before her death in the Columbine massacre, this book focuses on Lee’s search for the truth, and for healing, three years on from the events that changed her life.
It’s told as a giant letter to an unnamed reader, incorporating stories of the other survivors, the victims, and their stories in the years after the shooting. It’s really delicately drawn, with each of the survivors changed in both huge and tiny ways, and strong bonds forged between many of them who went through this thing together.
The focus of the book is on Lee’s attempts to set the record straight about what actually happened, and who the Cross Necklace belonged to. Commonly attributed to Sarah, who was then killed, Lee knows that’s not how it happened, but hasn’t told anyone. When Sarah’s parents plan to publish a book, Lee feels compelled to get the truth out there. This book then looks at what the truth is, the impact of telling the truth, whether truths can be individual, and lots of other really interesting stuff around that.
I also loved that this book had plenty of representation. Lee, the main character, is ace, and several of the other victims are repping in their own ways. Denny is blind and Black, Ashley is a wheelchair user, Eden is a latina lesbian (shades of This is Where it Ends there), and Miles is in a non-traditional family setup. What’s really lovely is that none of these things are the defining parts of these characters’ stories. Not even the shooting is. They’re all more than the sum of their parts.
There was probably space to investigate more how Kellie was affected, and I would have loved more from Denny. Overall, this book was compelling, touching, and really sensitively written. I stayed up late to finish it, and don’t regret it at all!

Four Stars

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One response to “That’s Not What Happened – Kody Keplinger

  1. Pingback: August Roundup | Much Ado About Books

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