Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: It Happens All the Time

Summary: From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent. -- Atria

I really respect Amy Hatvany as an author. She always seems to write touching, yet thought-provoking, books; and one thing's for sure, she doesn't shy away from difficult subjects. Case in point is her latest novel IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. This book tackles a very uncomfortable issue -- rape.

IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME tells the story of Amber and Tyler, best friends since before high school. As kids, these two had been through a lot together, including a serious health issue for Amber; and Amber has always felt that she could go to him with anything. However while Tyler considers Amber his best friend, he has also been in love with her for years.

When Amber returns home after her college graduation, newly engaged to an ideal guy, Tyler isn't sure what to make of their friendship. Over the summer, Amber and Tyler begin spending quite a bit time together; and honestly, Amber begins having a few doubts about her engagement... and her feelings toward Tyler. One evening at a party, the two have too much to drink; and Amber ends up kissing Tyler.

Things escalate quickly between Tyler and Amber; however, Amber realizes that she doesn't feel right about being with Tyler... and she tells him to stop. For whatever reason, Tyler doesn't listen and Amber ends up feeling the biggest betrayal she could ever imagine -- her best friend raped her!

IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME is a well-written book, with intriguing characters, that ultimately explores male/female relationships. It also delves into the subject of rape like no other book I've ever read. While I definitely think IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME was a worthwhile read, I can't really say I "enjoyed" it because of the subject matter. At times, it was a difficult read for me.... probably because I'm the mother of a daughter heading to college in a few months.

I admit that I was impressed that Ms. Hatvany decided to write this book. It couldn't have been easy for her, especially considering her past experiences. However, I think she did the subject matter justice. Rape/sexual assault are huge issues that affects a lot of women, and I think IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME demonstrated the devastating effects they can have on a person. And for that reason, I think this book is an extremely important one to read. Amber's story made me look at a lot of things differently, and I would love for men and women to read (and talk about) this book.

One thing I found extremely interesting about how Ms. Hatvany decided to tell this story was to present both Amber and Tyler's viewpoints. The chapters alternated between the two characters, and I admit I was as intrigued by Tyler's version of events as Ambers. (That's not to say that I agreed with him -- just that I found his side of the story to be interesting.) I do think she made Tyler a complex character; and while I didn't exactly feel bad for him, I found him to be realistic... and his reaction to the events were probably pretty realistic too.

As a mom, I think IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME made me think. And it definitely made me realize that not only do I need to have a few discussions with my daughter before she heads to college in a few months, but I also need to (eventually) have a talk with my pre-teen son. Our culture makes it very hard for women to come forward when they are sexually assaulted, and I'm not sure we do a good job of assigning blame. I read MISSOULA by Jon Krakauer and few months ago, and this novel  reiterated many of the same feelings I had while reading that book.

As I mentioned earlier, IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME would make a fabulous pick for book clubs. There are so many important issues that take place in this book. Not only are Amber and Tyler's behaviors after the rape thought-provoking and worthy of discussion, but so are their family and friends' reactions. In addition, I just think there is a lot to discuss about men and women and their relationships in general. There are eleven discussion questions as well as some ideas for ways to enhance your book club meeting. Some of other points for discussion include sexual assault, the culture of rape in our society, blame, guilt, coping mechanisms, mental illness, friendship, and forgiveness.

Overall, I think IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME was a very important read, albeit uncomfortable for me as a mom. I definitely recommend it to book clubs and both men and women who want a thought-provoking read.

I received an e-copy of this novel from Netgalley.


bermudaonion said...

Just the title of the book is very telling, isn't it? Subjects like this are tough to read about but we need to be aware of them and talk about them so we can do something about them. This book sounds terrific!

The Book Sage said...

I've already got this sitting in my TBR pile. Melissa from merrylandgirl.blogspot.com raved about it. I will get to it. But I'm glad to know ahead of time that it's a rough read.

Karen White said...

Just posted in my book club's Facebook group as a recommendation. I also have a daughter heading to college in a year. Reading the book Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein was eye-opening for both of us, and sparked some really important conversations. Will have to check out the Krakauer book, too.