What Happens Now by Jennifer Castle
Published: June 7, 2016 by Harper Teen
Source: ARC from publisher
"I know what it is to want something so badly, you feel like your cells aren’t properly bonded together without it.
I also know what it’s like to get that something.
And honestly, I’m still not sure which is worse..."
Ari Logan is battling to win her war against depression and the dark night she hurt herself on purpose. It’s not easy: her best friend is drifting away, her mom’s emotionally checked out, and she spends her days playing caregiver to her handful of a half-sister, Danielle. But it’s summer, and anything is possible...
That’s when Camden Armstrong steps onto the beach of Ari’s local swimming lake.
At first, Ari quietly longs for Camden from afar, seeing in him everything she wants to be. When the two discover a true connection the following summer, Ari lets herself fall not just for the quirky and self-assured Camden but also his friends, tumbling into their world of independence, adventure, and shared sci-fi fandom. As Ari’s romantic dreams come true, she must unlock the mysteries of the very real and troubled boy behind her infatuation, while also struggling with her own demons, obligations, and loyalties.
From the award-winning author of "The Beginning of After" and "You Look Different in Real Life," "What Happens Now" is a touching, insightful novel about learning to heal, learning to love, and what happens when fantasy becomes reality. [goodreads]
I'm a firm believer that Jennifer Castle is such an underrated YA contemporary writer. I first met her beautiful storytelling with her debut The Beginning of After, which left such a personal impression on me as a reader. I also recognized there was something unique in Castle's ability to use her words to tell a story that leaves impacts. They aren't always the soul crushing kind, but definitely more of the slow ripples that comes in waves, building to a crescendo that leaves the literary heart feeling full. I hope my review today puts her on your radar and you, too, will discover her writing.
This story begins with Ari's summer just after her sophomore year of high school. She's had a very rough road the last few months, dealing with her depression and the night she attempted to take her life just to feel something. But it's summertime and Ari is planning to spend her days at the lake. She notices a new face, and soon he is all she can see and think about. For the entire summer, she watches this boy named Camden, who has given her hope that she didn't realize she needed. Though she doesn't conjure up the courage to go and talk to him, he's still someone who consumes her world, from afar.
Fast forward to the following summer, just before her senior year of high school, and Ari has a new outlook. Instead of sitting by and being a bystander in her own life, she's decided to be bold, be brave, and embrace the possible. When she sees Camden from the summer before, she decides to take her infatuation one step further, and soon they're meeting, hanging out, getting to know one another. This just might be the summer that Ari will never forget. But the memories she holds aren't necessarily the dreamy summer kind. They'll become the catalyst for what lies ahead.
I really identified with Ari and how she lives inside her head a lot, living in a world that's safe and predictable because she's the one controlling it. However, it was such a breath of fresh air, even as scary as it may be, to see Ari living out her dreams, even when reality may be a bit different. Her relationship with her mom is one that was definitely front and center through out the story. The two of them have been through some rough waters, and it was interesting to see a story develop where the parent makes mistakes too. It gave authenticity to an already interesting dynamic.
This story is rich with well-developed relationships, an always moving conflict that isn't resolved in just a few short pages, and character growth that really propels it all forward. I could have stayed in this story, seeing life through Ari's eyes for much longer than the story allowed. I sometimes wonder what she's up to, how her life has continued to progress, and where she finds herself now at the end of this very summer. I can not recommend this story enough. Definitely add it to your list of summer reads, or really any time reads. It's a contemporary novel to be read, for sure.