In the aftermath of a school shooting, Lee finds herself swimming through lies of her best friend’s life. After realizing that, after her graduation, no one left in the school would know the truth, Lee decides to come out with the truth of her best friend Sarah, along with other survivors who come forward with their own stories.
Why this book?: I found a copy of it at my local bookstore, and I’d been hearing good things. I decided to read it because I was trying out a TBR Jar.
I went into this book not knowing much about it. I’d just been seeing it float around twitter, and I only really saw things about it being intense and that it was good. I would not recommend going into this book blind, as it can be very triggering to some. I wish I had known, because then I wouldn’t have read it.
Nothing about this book was extremely bad, but I hated how everything was approached. That’s Not What Happened is very open about the fact that it was based of off the Columbine shooting, and the moment I realized this, I noticed everything. And it just felt wrong. I’ll say this straight out and say that I don’t like books about school shootings. I hate the fact that someone is trying to make money off of these events, and that they’re fictionalizing events based off of the murders of children. I understand that some people are trying to increase awareness, but I personally cannot stand these types of books. This is only the second book about a school shooting that I’ve read, and I haven’t liked either of them very much.
So, that goes to say that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the plot once I realized what it was. I just wasn’t comfortable with it, especially because the character this book focuses a lot on was closely based on a kid who died in Columbine.
In addition to not being a fan of the plot, I just thought all of the characters were shallow. They were very focused on themselves, and they were defined by very few characteristics. I felt like they were more expectations of characters rather than people, and I couldn’t connect with any of them. Despite this, I did appreciate Keplinger’s attempt to include diverse characters. One of the survivors was blind and black, and he didn’t like people defining him by those characteristics (despite the author doing just that). Lee, the narrator, also comes out as asexual, and what she explains as asexual was actually fairly accurate. I was impressed with the asexual representation, one because I wasn’t expecting it, and two because it was better than I was expecting in a book I hadn’t even heard of having asexual rep before.
Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆
I didn’t finish this book. As I got further in, I felt more and more uncomfortable with the usage of school shootings as a plot device. I also just couldn’t get behind the characters, they weren’t drawing me in–they weren’t making it worth the read. I read over half of this book, and that was more than enough for me.
Would I Recommend?
Maybe if you’re more comfortable than I am with school shooting plots. And maybe if you’re okay with bland characters. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even suggest reading this book for the representation. It’s just too much for too little.
Published: August 28th, 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Page Count: 329
Genre: Contemporary/Young Adult
Synopsis: via Goodreads
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 . . .
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