This is How it Happened – Paula Stokes (ARC Review)

“Where does seeking justice end and seeking vengeance begin?”

I really enjoy books that offer a unique social commentary, especially when it’s relevant to modern times, so I jumped at the chance to read this book. It touches on cyber-bullying, the social media jury phenomenon, and more, as well as some ever-relevant morals, such as honesty and trust.

When Genevieve wakes up in a hospital, she’s told she’s been in a coma for a week – a coma caused by the car crash that killed her youtube sensation boyfriend, Dallas. A car crash that she was driving in. The journalists and reporters are all saying that the head-on collision is to blame on the other driver: Brad Freeman, a man who’s already got at least one drunk driving charge under his belt. This prior blame, coupled with Dallas’ rise to stardom briefly before his demise, leads the internet into a frenzy. Social media sites everywhere are full of comment threads of users wishing death upon Brad and his family, with the majority fully convinced that he must have been another reckless drunk driver, taking the life of poor, innocent Dallas.

The problem is, Gen is the only one who can testify for or against Brad… and she doesn’t remember the night of the accident, but something in her gut tells her that things aren’t what they seem.

This was my first Paula Stokes book, and I really enjoyed her writing voice! Her style makes for a quick and easy read without being mediocre, and there was constantly this underlying theme that she was proving more than one important point to her readers, which I liked. Obviously, not every story needs a moral, but this book has them, and portrays them well.

I also found Gen to be a really solid, likeable MC. She’s made mistakes, and while some of them have been traumatic, it’s always clear that she’s not a “bad person”; the mistakes she’s made were things that anyone could do if they’re not being cautious or thinking carefully, which drives the point home that much further.

I also really loved the fact that we’re shown this perspective of her relationship with Dallas that easily explains how she can be interested in a new guy not long after his death; despite her own concerns that people will judge her for moving on too fast, I never felt like the progression was rushed or unnatural. Plus, the love interest in this book is a real catch, and his gay dads are so adorable you can’t help but love the entire little family.

I actually don’t think there was much of anything I outright disliked about this book; it’s more than it wasn’t anything mind-blowing, so I couldn’t quite justify 5 stars. I don’t think that this book is the kind of story that will stick with me for long, because I didn’t just love it. I actually found it just a little bit difficult to relate to Gen and Dallas, with the whole brilliant-girl-genius and overnight-youtube-music-sensation vibe. Plus, both of Gen’s parents are surgeons and her step-mom is a boss at this fancy government park, so everything felt very… upper class and a little bit unapproachable, if that makes sense.

All in all, is this the kind of book that will stay with me for a long time to come? Probably not. Is this the kind of book that I might reread in the future? Debatable. Would I pick up other titles from Paula later on, though? Absolutely! I think she’s got a whole well full of potential and I can’t wait to see where she takes it.

Thank you so much to Paula Stokes and the lovely folks at HarperTeen for this ARC! All opinions expressed here are my own.


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Just a children's librarian/horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

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