This is How it Happened, Paula Stokes: Book Review

this is how it happened paula stokes book reviewHarper Teen / Paula Stokes
This Is How It Happened Book Cover This Is How It Happened
Paula Stokes
Young Adult
Harper Teen

Somehow I’ve become a liar. A coward. Here’s how it happened.

When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.

As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

Incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully told, Paula Stokes’s story will compel readers to examine the consequences of making mistakes in a world where the internet is always watching…and judging.

 This review contains quotes from the book.

Paula Stokes‘ dark new young adult novel, This is How it Happened, will grip you right from the beginning. In short, Stokes’ latest book is about a girl coming to realize her part in the death of her famous boyfriend, who she learns was killed in a car accident.

“Where’s Dallas?” I ask. He should be here right now.

Mom starts talking about the accident, but her words fade out, because suddenly I start to remember what happened.

—excerpt from Paula Stokes’ This is How it Happened

Genevieve Larsen was driving her boyfriend Dallas’ car when she’s struck by Bradley Freeman, who may or may not have been driving under the influence. When Genevieve starts to gather her thoughts after being in a coma for the five or so days following the accident, she begins to gather that maybe she was to blame for Dallas’ death. It also doesn’t help that Dallas was a popular YouTube star, and was coming off the success of his debut album; the couple was actually driving back from his release party when the event occurred.

Dallas’ fans are upset about his death (which is understandable) but they never really give Genevieve a break about it. So she decides to flee to her father’s house by the Zion National Park. In a failed attempt at running away from her problems, Genevieve knows she cannot escape the accident and how she might have been responsible for her boyfriend’s passing on that fatal day.

“Will do,” I force out, my voice high and unnatural. My heart makes up for those skipped beats by pounding double-time as I disconnect the call. It’s not like anything I said was a lie, but it still feels like I’ve done something wrong. Almost criminal.

Like I’ve crossed a line that I can’t come back from.

—excerpt from Paula Stokes’ This is How it Happened, on Genevieve thinking to herself after talking to Detective Blake about not remembering anything from the accident.

What I like about what Stokes did with her book is that she focused on Genevieve in present-time, but when Genevieve had a flashback, Stokes would write an entire chapter to retell what happened. I like this concept because it gave me a clear picture of what Genevieve and Dallas were doing during the night of the accident. As the reader, you start to piece together what transpired with Genevieve from there, which made this story even more intriguing.

Slowly but surely you will come to find out everything that happened on that night that led to the accident and Dallas’ ill-timed death. Trust me on this, you will not want to put this down once you’ve started it. Stokes does a great job with writing Genevieve as a character and with the slow build-up to her protagonist’s epiphany is an incredibly well-written finish.

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Jessica Duffield
the authorJessica Duffield
Contributing Writer
I am a sophomore in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate.