Monday 17 December 2018


It's been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah's story - that she died proclaiming her faith. 

 But it's not true. 

 I know because I was with her when she died. I didn't say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah's parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I'm not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did - and didn't - happen that day. 

 Except Sarah's martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don't take kindly to what I'm trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what's right. I don't know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .

I've read several excellent books written by this author, so of course I was looking forward to reading this one.

Three years after a mass shooting took place in Virgil County High School, the survivors are still dealing with the horrific memories of that day.

Each kid has moved on with their lives. One is in college, another is married and the other three are in their last year of school. And then there's the estranged one.

No matter how hard each one tries to move on, what lies beneath the surface still haunts them. For Lee, she also feels the heavy weight of guilt. She knows the story being told about one of the victims--her best friend--isn't right, and her determination to finally tell this truth reveals other, deeper secrets... 

Wow. This is quite a book! A very important book.

I was hooked from the start, and found Lee's journey to be sad, hopeful, and even frustrating at times. The way these kids were treated/judged by others when they dare break the safe narrative their faith forces them to cling to, is awful.

The characters were awesome. Lee's narration takes us deep into how badly her life changed when her best friend was shot. Denny is a fascinating kid with an awesome guide dog and great ideas. Miles is quiet and continually fighting his own personal demons. Ashley has made the most of her life by starting a family, but refuses to face any other truths. Eden might have left town and is now in college, but she's self-medicating and barely keeping it together.

The way this story was written was very cool. Lee is writing a letter, sharing her experience and the truth she's kept to herself for three years. She takes us back to the awful events, and what happened shortly after, and what's going on now. Included are letters from the other survivors, which are really heartfelt. As well as separate sections remembering each of the nine victims seen through Lee's eyes, and others that knew them better.

Put all of this together, and it's an awesome story about surviving a tragedy, overcoming guilt, and learning to trust yourself again after being consumed by the threat of death at every corner.

That's Not What Happened is a very powerful story about a group of strong kids who survived something really horrible. It's a heartbreaking book, but not a downer. I found myself totally captivated by the different experiences each character goes through. It also echoes the many disturbing headlines we see way too often in American schools. It lifts the veil, takes the reader into the scarring aftermath and the awful fallout the rest of us never see.

Asides from the subject matter taking the reader to some very dark places, it's also very well written and kept me hooked from beginning to end.

Looking forward to reading more stories by Kody Keplinger.

That's Not What Happened, September 2018, ISBN 9781444933628, Hodder Children's Books

No comments:

Favorites More