At the start of senior year, Sara wants two things: to get into her first-choice college and to find true love. Tobey also wants two things: to win Battle of the Bands and to make Sara fall in love with him.
Dave, the boy Sara was hoping would realize she exists, moves in on Sara first. But Tobey is impossible for Sara to ignore. He gets the little things that matter to her and, most importantly, he feels like something real. Can a slacker rock star wannabe win the heart of a pretty class brain like Sara?
Hilariously and movingly told through Tobey's and Sara's authentic voices, Susane Colasanti's debut novel sizzles in its portrayal of two teens searching for the One.
"Realistic dialogue, multi-layered characters, musical references and issues that matter most to teens make this story happen. Like Sarah Dessen, Colasanti knows how teens operate." - Kirkus Reviews
"Colasanti obviously remembers the kind of love that makes your insides churn, belly flips and all. Her take on young romance is insightful, fresh and fun, her characters fully formed and likable."
- The Washington Post
"The easy style of the writing reflects how teens speak. This is a fun romance with lots of dialogue."
- School Library Journal
"Colasanti's sweet debut...realistically captures the thrill of first love." - Publishers Weekly
"Teen readers will enjoy the dynamics of Sara and Tobey and their friends and identify with their bantering. It is a fully satisfying story that will please young adult readers looking for a little romance."
"The story of a true and meaningful connection between souls that transcends the social strictures of high school." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"It's like Twilight without the vampires!" - The Guardian
Here's a short excerpt from When It Happens.
You can read the first three chapters of When It Happens on Scribd.
Find out what Sara, Tobey, and Susane love most in the Game of Favorites. With a special appearance by Chez!
Enjoy on Spotify.
1. "Going Under" - Evanescence
This song is playing when Sara gets to Battle of the Bands. If When It Happens is ever made into a movie, "Going Under" would totally rock the trailer.
2. "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" - Andy Gibb
Sara is looking for a boy who can be her everything. Tobey wants to be that boy.
3. "Harder to Breathe" (acoustic) - Maroon 5
There's no way we're gonna give up.
4. "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" - Journey
This song played on repeat while I wrote the scene where Tobey drives Sara home, she gets out of the car, goes around to his side, and they press their hands together on either side of the window. In a lot of ways, this is their theme song.
5. "Feels Like the First Time" - Foreigner
The first time you fall in love is the most intense. This song captures that overwhelming feeling perfectly.
6. "Fascination Street" - The Cure
Like Tobey, I'm a huge Cure fan. "Fascination Street" is ultimate Cure.
7. "You Are the Everything" - R.E.M.
Sara ultimately learns that no one boy can be everything you're looking for. When it feels like a missing piece of you has finally been found, that's when you know the search is over.
8. "Keep On Loving You" - REO Speedwagon
When It Happens was influenced by some of my own experiences during senior year of high school. That's why the book has lots of 80s music. This was one of those 80s songs I played so many times the tape wore out.
9. "D'yer Mak'er" - Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin was on heavy rotation while I wrote several of Tobey's chapters. In an early draft of the manuscript, this song was playing when Tobey gave Sara the blue light bulb for her room.
10. "Sara" - Fleetwood Mac
Along with my friend Sara, this song inspired her name.
11. "Orange Crush" - R.E.M.
There's a scene where Tobey tells Sara to stare at the cover of the R.E.M. CD Green. The cover is orange. If you stare at orange for a minute and then quickly look away, you'll see a spot of green. It's one of those quirky things that I felt the need to include.
12. "Heaven" - Bryan Adams
Mike insists that they should have played this song at Battle of the Bands instead of "Feel Like Making Love" by Bad Company. Although I love "Heaven," the whole Mike thing is sort of a joke. When I was in high school, it seemed like every garage band had "Heaven" on their list of songs they could actually play. They always managed to mess up the first few opening chords, though.
13. "Night Moves" - Bob Seger
This song is what it's like to be young and free. A song about longing, nostalgia, and sweet memories. Tobey, Josh, and Mike play this during band practice with the garage door open, light spilling out on the driveway on a warm spring night.
14. "If You Leave Me Now" - Chicago
We've come too far to leave it all behind.
Sara is practicing creative visualization to achieve her goals during senior year; Tobey is practicing in his garage band. Sara imagines her ideal boyfriend as the popular Dave; Tobey considers giving up his slacker ways to win over Sara. In alternating voices, the teens realize that meaningless hook-ups leave them wanting "something real," which they find in each other. Although they seem to be soul mates, Sara and Tobey must overcome jealousy, lies and past sexual encounters with a maturity (and a nod to a popular '80s movie) well beyond most adolescents. Helping them along the way are sympathetic teachers, parents and friends. Realistic dialogue, multi-layered characters, musical references and issues that matter most to teens make this story happen. Like Sarah Dessen, Colasanti knows how teens operate.
- Kirkus Reviews
Sara is searching for something real. It's the start of senior year, and the brainy and beautiful teen is determined that this will be the year she finds "it" – that elusive little thing called love. She's been crushing all summer on Dave, who asked for her phone number at the end of junior year. She's been waiting for his call for months, stressing about her search not for just any boyfriend but the one who truly gets her, understands that she must make it into New York University, grasps the whacked-out relationship she has with her mom. She's got all her hopes wrapped up in Dave, not knowing that Tobey – the slacker guy from art class who seems to care only about his band – has spent countless hours crafting a plan to win her over.
So it goes in When It Happens , Susane Colasanti's debut novel, which successfully captures the angst and exhilaration that come with new love. Colasanti's tale unfolds in a "she said/he said" style, with chapters that tell the story from the viewpoint of each main character. Two sets of typefaces – one for Sara's side, another for Tobey's – make it easy to track who's talking.
That Colasanti, a public high school teacher in New York City, gets what high school is like is evident. Film and music references are sprinkled throughout her text, from Sara's favorite movie (Say Anything…) to a band (R.E.M.) she's heard of but never listened to until Tobey. Mentions of drugs, sex, eating disorders and the social pressures teens face aren't overdone, and the dialogue is breezy and realistic (including a few gratuitous f-bombs and a URL to a porn site). Even Colasanti's description about getting dressed for gym is legit: "First I sniff the shirt that's in my locker to make sure it doesn't smell too bad. Even if it does, I still have to wear it. But then I know not to stand too close to anyone."
Colasanti obviously remembers the kind of love that makes your insides churn, belly flips and all. Her take on young romance is insightful, fresh and fun, her characters fully formed and likable. Knowing how the book will end hardly matters, for When It Happens is sort of like high school itself: The outcome may be predictable, but what's really important is what happens along the way.
- Debra Leithauser, editor of The Post's Sunday Source, The Washington Post
Sara and Tobey both have goals as they enter their senior year of high school. Sara's is to make gorgeous new guy Dave her boyfriend. Tobey's is to make Sara his girlfriend. Both are looking for something deeper than the usual teen dating, and they are each surrounded with friends freely offering advice on how to reach their goals. Sara is convinced that Dave is perfect for her just as Tobey knows that Sara is "the one" for him. Sara attains her goal first only to find that Dave – a member of the popular group – is not what she thought he would be. As friends, Sara and Tobey draw closer and see each other with new eyes. Written in alternating voices, the book allows readers into the thoughts of both characters. They are sympathetic and teen readers will like them and want them to find each other. Tobey seems to be the deeper of the two and undergoes the most change as a result of the new relationship. Teen readers will enjoy the dynamics of Sara and Tobey and their friends and identify with their bantering. It is a fully satisfying story that will please young adult readers looking for a little romance. 4Q 4P (Better than most; broad general YA appeal)
In the first chapter, readers find out that Sara is entering her senior year hoping that she'll find "true love." She is encouraged when Dave asks her out. He is part of the in crowd, and she begins to hang out with his friends, at the expense of her relationships with her girlfriends. Next, readers hear from Tobey. He has slept with a couple of girls, but is uncomfortable with that kind of relationship. He thinks Sara is his "real thing," and he asks her friend Laila to help him win her over. Tobey and Sara become partners in music class and find they have much in common. Dave, on the other hand, is a disappointment to her. When he pressures Sara to sleep with him, she finally realizes that she confused her attraction to his good looks and connections with honest feelings. Through alternating chapters, readers get the perspectives of Tobey and Sara about their developing relationship. The easy style of the writing reflects how teens speak, and some of the characters' language is realistically gritty. This is a fun romance with lots of dialogue that, due to the many popular-culture references, will become dated quickly.
- School Library Journal
After he asked for her phone number at the end of her junior year, Sara waited for Dave to call all summer long. Now that their senior year is beginning, Sara has made love her priority. She only hopes it is with Dave! At the same time, her classmate Tobey has set his eye on Sara. But how will slacker musician Tobey ever have a chance with the attractive class brain when popular jock Dave moves in on her from day one? Will Sara be as happy with Dave as she always expected she would be? Will Tobey's plans help him to win her interest? This hefty 300-plus-page book covers the entirety of the school year and explores the excitement of sexual awakening. Told in alternating first-person entries by Sara and Tobey, Susane Colasanti's novel is sure to appeal to teen fans of The O.C. and Everwood .
- Children's Literature
In Colasanti's sweet debut, an unlikely pair of high school seniors fall for each other, and learn to handle the ups and downs that come with love. At the start of the book, overachiever Sara starts dating popular Dave, mainly because "after being a nobody for so long, it feels awesome to be a somebody." But when she gets paired up with smart slacker musician Tobey, they instantly connect and Sara realizes true love is "finally happening." Told through the couple's alternating perspectives, the story realistically captures the thrill of first love (Sara realizes that "When I'm with Tobey, an hour seems like a second"). After finding each other, Sara and Tobey must deal with jealous exes as well as their futures (Tobey learns to study, hoping to go to the Manhattan Music Academy and be near Sara at NYU). Readers may find the plot somewhat thin, and secondary story lines remain underdeveloped (e.g., Sara's strained relationship with her mother, who was 16 when Sara was born; her friend Maggie's struggles to deal with her parents' divorce). But the book emulates the feeling that everything but the budding romance slips to the background. Even the delectably hokey scene in which Tobey wins Sara back by standing under her window, holding up his boom box over his head (like John Cusack in her favorite scene from Say Anything… ) is sure to make readers smile.
- Publishers Weekly
Honor-student Sara is hoping that senior year will bring her a relationship with Dave, a handsome basketball player, and she's thrilled when her wishes come true. Her classmate Tobey, who alternates narration with Sara, is not at all thrilled since he knows what a jerk Dave really is and he himself has fallen heard over heels for Sara, but he's sure she won't look at a C-average guy whose focus is his band. As the weeks go by, however, Sara realizes that Dave isn't right for her, and that she has a real connection with Tobey; soon she has moved on from Dave to Tobey and finds herself in her first serious relationship, with the attendant challenges of her first sexual experience and decisions about post-graduation plans. This is a sweet and touching love story, and Sara in particular is a sympathetic character, with her desire for love and willingness to step outside her usual preplanning and take a chance; it's also nice to see the benefits of a good relationship credibly portrayed (in order to create a future where he can be near Sara, Tobey pulls his schoolwork together and starts getting good grades.) Romantic readers may still enjoy the story of a true and meaningful connection between souls that transcends the social strictures of high school.
- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Susane Colasanti has officially become one of my favourite authors, and I absolutely adore her books. I've read two so far and have thoroughly enjoyed them.
The most recent one I read is When It Happens. I love Colasanti's writing style because it's exactly what girls my age want to read. This book is all about a girl trying to "find herself" in high school while trying to also find someone to love. I really liked this book because it was my favourite genre, romance, but Colasanti turned it into something teenagers want to read about, so it doesn't get boring. As one review rightly said it is "Chick lit for girls who think", which I totally agree with.
The book alternates through two different view points, Sara's and Tobey's. Sara would much rather focus on schoolwork, getting into college and her new boyfriend Dave, whereas Tobey is much more interested in slacking, his band and Sara. As they gradually grow closer, each must learn to accommodate for each other, and hopefully fall in love in the process.
This is definitely one of my favourite books of the year, because I adore stories like this. For me, it's like Twilight without the vampires! I would recommend this to any teenage girl who wants a book to make her feel good, because this book is definitely happy, and made me happy too.
- The Guardian
Sara and Tobey couldn’t be more different as they start their senior year in high school. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college—NYU. She sure has the grades for it, but she’s still stressing out. Tobey, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about college. He just wants to become a famous rock star, win Battle of the Bands, and tour the world with his friends. But this becomes increasingly difficult as he realizes that the other two-thirds of his band are planning on going to college. And where does that leave Tobey?
At the beginning of each year, Sara and her friends list their goals for the school year. This year, Sara’s goal is to find true love. And when Dave, a popular guy she’s been crushing on since he moved to their school at the end of last year, asks her out, she’s sure she’s reached her goal. But for some reason, even though she’s going out with Dave, Tobey keeps popping into her head. He’s sweet, has amazing blue eyes, and has great arms from playing guitar and working out.
And it just so happens that one of Tobey’s goals is to make Sara fall in love with him.
This review comes in 5 parts, Part One — Writing Style:
From the start of When It Happens, I loved the writing style of Susane Colasanti. The first chapter was very reminiscent of R. A. Nelson (circa Breathe My Name), in that it was random, relatable, and very much like the inside of a teenager’s mind. She writes like a teenager, using language, actions, and emotions familiar to our every day to tell the story. Tobey, Sara, and all of their friends act like students in high school, like students I’ve met.
Added to that is the fact that Colasanti can write. I mean really write. She can write with so much conviction and emotion that it puts you there in the story, rooting for the relationships, hating the teachers, feeling uncomfortable during awkward moments. This is actually some of the best YA writing I’ve come across in a while, as it doesn’t sound like an adult trying to sound like a teenager. Many can succeed in making the character sound like a teenager, but there’s also that little bit that sounds like an adult pretending to be a teen. Only some, however, can master the art of a full-fledged teenaged narrator (R. A. Nelson, Sarah Dessen, Maureen Johnson, and now Susane Colasanti). Welcome to the ranks of amazing YA authors, Ms. Colasanti.
Part Two—Character Development:
When It Happens began as if you’d known the characters forever and were just being reintroduced. They didn’t bore you with tedious introductions, but at the same time, you learned the story of every single one of the characters, main and minor. You learned about each girl’s family and history. In just the first chapter you learn so much about Sara’s friends as they tell each other their goals for the year, an annual ritual they do before school starts. Also, the book isn’t just about Sara and Tobey. Their best friends also go through some things. Maggie’s parents separate, and Laila falls for one of Tobey’s friends—no matter how much she denies it, it’s true. All the characters are dynamic and depicted really well.
The plot of When It Happens is just as believable as the characters. I don’t want to give away anything, but I will tell you this: events like these are sure to happen in real life. Nothing unrealistic or exaggerated happens to these characters. They go through their senior year like any other students, they fall in love like any other teenagers, and they experience some rough times like any other person.
Part Four—Font/Changing POV:
A very unique characteristic of this book is that it was written in both points of view, Sara’s and Tobey’s. Every other chapter was Sara, and the rest were Tobey. I personally enjoy books that give both sides of the story because then both characters are loud, dynamic, and truthful. You don’t just get an impression of one or the other—you get their whole story.
And the best part about the switching POV? The fonts changed also. This was the coolest idea on behalf of Susane Colasanti or her editors. By making Sara and Tobey have different fonts, they made it easier to keep up with who was speaking, because once you get into this book, it can be easy to just speed right through and not think about it. The different fonts made it possible to notice. Also, the different fonts added a touch of originality to the story that wasn’t there otherwise.
Part Five—My Opinions:
Personally, I couldn’t get enough of this book. Parts 1-4 can give you the best reasons why—or at least the ones I could pinpoint. Besides those things, there was something else that made me love this book so much, but I can’t figure out exactly what it was. It was just…something. Something incredible. My friends may tell you that I’m obsessed with this book (we actually just had a discussion about this a few nights ago), and maybe I am. I could read this book many times over and never get sick of it. There’s something in the depth of the characters that is alluring, something in the every day plot that is so relatable, and something in the writing that makes it re-readable.
As you can probably tell, this book comes highly recommended from me. 5 caramel macchiato espressos for this spectacular work of fiction.
- Plenty of Paper
When it Happens is such an adorable book. This is the first book I have read of Susane's but it was the one that kept being recommended when I had asked friends that had read most if not all of her books. And now I can see why they talked so positively about it. Susane's writing reminds me so, so much of Sarah Dessen, which I really think helped me enjoy this book more. Susane truly has an amazing voice though, and it really shines in When it Happens.
When it Happens is one of those books that I feel like you just can't help but love. It's an extremely cute story that you really feel like you get drawn into. It's got some great friendships, relationships and it even has some pretty cool teachers. I know, right? You don't see many cool teachers in books, but I really liked a specific teacher in this book. While the romance is a huge focus in this book, I loved some of the other stuff too such as seeing if the characters where able to get into the schools they wanted to and what actually happened from there.
Sara, Laila and Maggie share such an enjoyable friendship. Their friendship was actually one of my favorite parts of the book. I just really found myself enjoying the scenes that they were together in. I would always find myself laughing at the notes that Sara and Laila sent back and forth during classes, especially the ones where they would pick random names for themselves. It's something small, but it's little things like that which can really help you connect with the characters and get a sense of their personalities, and I love that.
Now to talk about the relationships. I am not going to go into an extreme amount of detail here, simply because I don't want to spoil anything. Dave and Tobey are complete opposites. And to put it nicely, I really, really hate one of them. Once I found out some of the things that one of them did, that was it. I was so happy to see who ended up with Sara, I think they are so great together. I wish I could go on and on about how great of a relationship it is, but I want you all to be able to figure out which one she actually ends up with and how it all plays out.
The ending is all you could want it to be, and more. You have this cute story, and you get an even cuter ending. It was great seeing how everything played out for Sara, her friends and the guy she ended up with, which I still won't say which one it is. You get to see how all of the school stuff plays out, and just where the relationships and friendships are going to go. It's just such an easy story to read, and the ending felt very concrete which is nice. That's not to say that I wouldn't love to see where things went with them going to college and everything, but I would like to think things worked out for the best especially considering how things actually worked out in regards to the different schools they all got into.
I'm really going to have to read more of Susane's books after this, though. If any of them are even just a fraction of the awesomeness that is When it Happens, I can't wait to read them. I'm going to end this review by speaking to those of you that might not have read this book, or any of Susane's books. If you haven't then I highly suggest that you do so, I can see very clearly why it was recommended that I start with When it Happens, so I just want to pass along that advice. I can't wait to read some of her other books.
- Justin's Book Blog
If I had to rate this from one to five stars, I'd give it five million. If I had to rate it in thumbs up, I'd fill a stadium full of people to raise up both thumbs. If I had to rate it between one and ten, I'd give it fifteen gazillion.
I loved this!!!!!
This is such a great YA novel. Sara and Tobey are starting their senior year of high school. Sara is a straight-A student, bent on success and attending NYU. Tobey's a slacker, intelligent but more interested in writing songs and playing guitar in his band, Mindflame. Sara's hoping that Dave, who asked for her phone number at the end of junior year, will ask her out. Tobey's in love with Sara and trying to figure out how to make her notice him. Each chapter goes back and forth between Sara and Tobey's point of view.
Sara does eventually go out with Dave, only to find out...well, he's not as perfect as she originally thought. Tobey, with the help of his friend Mike, hatches a plan to get Sara to notice him, but he soon realizes that it's more important to be who he is when he's around her. Tobey reforms his slacker ways for Sara's sake, but he finds that the changes he makes appeal to him, too. Sara learns to loosen up a little bit and enjoy the moment. Sara and Tobey's friends aid them along the way, providing well-rounded advice and a lot of pep to the story.
Sara and Tobey's relationship isn't perfect, but the whole book is so happy and hopeful and full of those first love tingles that I enjoyed every well-written word. Their descriptions of their feelings for each other are so intense, so fresh and new, that it catapults you right back to high school and how you felt about that cute guy a few lockers down. I felt all glittery and happy and squealy at the end of the book. Sometimes you just want something with a happy ending, and this book was IT. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. If you enjoy YA, you won't want to miss this one (I'm all for the issue-centered YA- the girl struggling with anorexia, the boy who continues his family's cycle of abuse with his girlfriend, etc.- but this one was much lighter and happier). LOVED this.
- Open Mind, Insert Book.
It’s one of the best YA novels out there, and definitely the best love story, on par with that of Ron/Hermione, or Lily/James. It’s one of those epic ones that you don’t logically think exist, and yet, can’t help but hope…
Tobey’s the guy every girl is looking for. He’s sincere and honest and sweet and just a thoroughly lovely open person. He and Sara make an unbeatable pair.
While Sara and Tobey are the main focus, the other plotlines (Maggie’s parents, college hunting, etc) all work effectively together. It gives the book more dimension and realism.
Colasanti is a master of characterization. She manages to get into the boy’s brain and perfectly capture it. Her alternation of POVs is also great, with not too many but not too few characters telling the story. One would think this would be repetitive, but I LOVED seeing the very different ways Sara and Tobey thought about the same events. Hilariousness ensues.
Why is this better than other books in the romantic YA fiction genre? Because it has serious depth many of those lack. Because we get geeky characters that are really really relatable. Because it’s realistic and really can happen. Because it tells a good story, but has a great moral too: Identify your dreams and then do whatever it humanly takes to make them a reality. It’s not only an adorable lasting love story, but it’s got much depth and other things that provide deep reflection.
Why? Because this is perfection in a book.
- Online Dating