The only other book I have read by Paula Stokes has been Girl Against The Universe, exactly a year ago. It was cute and super mental health positive, whereas This Is How It Happened is much more serious in the topics it tackles, and I think it is a good reflection of the times and how she wanted to portray these things through the main character, Genevieve.
Even though this book had bits and moments of romance that were extremely cute and unexpected, this is not a romance book. It reads mainly as a mystery novel where you, along with Genevieve, have to uncover what happened the night of the car accident. In addition, she has to deal with the consequences this brings not only from the accident but also social media as the people there try to seek justice.
Throughout the story, there is questioning of morals, mainly on Genevieve’s part as she struggles to do what she thinks is the right thing and what the people want, as well as protecting herself and family from the repercussions of the media. I loved these parts so much because she wasn’t your typical lawful good heroine character. Instead, she was deeply flawed and insecure, with worries and troubles, but also dreams. And the pressure of everyone wanting a specific result from her, to blame Brad Freeman for the death of her boyfriend, made her easier to relate to and likeable for me.
The other part I deeply enjoyed was the constant questioning of social media and the involvement of people when it comes to “calling out”, something that has become more common each day thanks to the internet. Crime cases involve all of the society today, unlike years ago when the reaction of everyone was much more delayed. This calling out culture has become toxic, and I completely disagree with it, which is why I haven’t been as involved with the book community on Twitter as I used to be. Paula Stokes questions and challenges this through a series of news articles and comments within the book, as well as Twitter threads, related to the car accident. It was hilarious, as well as shocking, to see how the rude comments, as well as the most sensible ones, were a direct reflection of anything you see posted online today.
Even though I haven’t read any of Paula’s other books other than this and GATU, I have to say that this is one of her darker ones, but not without a resolution for the characters. She kept it real until the end, and I loved how she would work the themes of grief and guilt alongside the bullying, mob mentality, and relationships. Genevieve’s journey is one of many challenges and growth, learning to trust and overcome obstacles, and that the simple road is not always the best one, or the right one. In the overwhelming world of manipulating media and fast lives, it is easy to forget or not notice these things, as well as forget to take care of yourself every once in a while and that you are not alone.
Overall, I think this book will resonate with many, particularly those that have witnessed or have been victims of the effects of cyberbullying, or have been participants in it with or without being conscious of the consequences. It also sheds light in the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as sleep deprivation, something that is easily overlooked in modern society. With great family dynamics (as always), supportive friendships, moving on, healing, and learning from your mistakes, this book is definitely a must-read. Cannot rave and recommend it enough.
“You have more power than you think. Be careful what you do with it.”
Rating: 5 stars
PS. Pictures taken and edited by me 🙂