I loved Tara Altebrando’s first YA novel, The Pursuit of Happiness. It was really amazing, so I’m pleased to be able to say that What Happens Here is far from disappointing! It’s an impressive, unputdownable, really marvelous book.
Chloe, the narrator, is going on a fantastic vacation to Europe with her family. Travelling has always been a dream that she and her best friend, Lindsay, shared, so she’s disappointed that Lindsay won’t be coming along. She and Lindsay have been best friends their entire lives. Their mothers were best friends, too–the families even moved from North Carolina to Las Vegas together before the girls started high school! This will be one of very, very few experiences that Chloe and Lindsay will not share. But, still–two weeks in Europe! Chloe is understandably excited (though her older sister is less so–for Zoe, it means spending time away from her boyfriend, Johnny, and Zoe’s not really that into travelling anyway).
And the vacation is amazing, though marred by the fact that she and Lindsay fought right before Chloe left, at the top of a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. Chloe sees sights she’s only dreamed about, sights that before were only pictures plastered on her bedroom walls. All Lindsay gets is post cards. Chloe doesn’t know what Lindsay’s up to all this time, as her father has confiscated her phone and they’re not allowed to use email on the trip.
Luckily, she’s met someone outside of her immediate family to talk to: Danny, a cute, funny guy who also lives in Vegas. They see the sights of Europe together, and Danny wants to be together when they get home, though Chloe can’t help but wonder if there’s someone else she’d rather have with her–Lindsay’s brother, Noah. Of course, she’d never do that to Lindsay, who subtly let them both know she didn’t want Chloe and Noah hanging out, years ago.
There’s some serious use of foreshadowing here. Chloe is having such an awesome time, and saying this is how things are supposed to go in her life, the reader just knows some tragedy is about to strike. And they’re right. Tragedy strikes.
I loved this book for so many reasons. The settings! Much of this book is set in Las Vegas and the rest of it is set in various exciting locations around Europe. I loved reading about these places. I’m always one for books that involve traveling or just exciting settings; I plan to travel all around the world someday. Backpacking through Europe is one of my dreams, just like Chloe. I could especially relate to her about that, and loved that whole aspect of this story!
All of the characters are fantastic. Chloe in particular is such a real, three-dimensional character; Tara Altebrando really understands people. Their relationships are so real, too. What Happens Here deals with all different types of relationships: friends, family, romance. And all are done so well!
It’s a very well-written book, too. Tara Altebrando is a talented writer, and she does a great job with Chloe’s voice. This is quite an engrossing story; I couldn’t stop reading, once I picked it up (luckily that was on a Saturday afternoon where I had nothing else to do!). I read it in one sitting.
What Happens Here is an honest, powerful, moving book about love, loss, friendship, holding on to (and figuring out) your dreams, and growing up. It’s about putting the pieces back together, too, after a tragedy; things can never be like they used to be. I adored this book, out in May, and strongly suggest you go get copy as soon as it’s available!