Title: What Happens Now
Author: Jennifer Castle
Published in: 2016
Genres: romance, realistic fiction, contemporary fiction, mental health/mental illness
“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.”
Ari is struggling with depression. One night over a year ago, she cut herself on purpose. Ever since then, she’s been trying to move on and come back from that night. Her depression is mostly managed now. She takes medication and goes to therapy, although she’s taking a break from it for the summer.
What Happens Now didn’t focus a lot on Ari’s depression. I thought this was going to be a mental health novel that was also a romance, but it was more of a romance novel with mental illness thrown in. The fact that Ari had depression was there, but not talked about a lot. Her medication was referenced when she thought about why she definitely couldn’t drink. Although, the night when she hurt herself was always present in a way. It was part of her past. Most of the novel was about her and Camden and their cosplay group. Towards the end, Ari sunk back down to that place she was in over a year ago. She felt the urge to do it again, but when she got out her box, she instead found a letter from her mother.
Ari’s mother also had depression. It was something she had when Ari was younger, but not something Ari knew a lot about. Her mother never shared that with her, even though Ari’s therapist thought she should. What Ari didn’t know is that her mother was still struggling in a way. The last thing said about that was that her family was going together to go to Ari’s first fall therapy session and try it.
The first summer Ari had a crush on Camden from afar. She dreamt about him, but never managed to get up the courage to actually talk to him. The second summer, she managed to have a conversation with him and soon found herself hanging out with him and his friends. They also were fans of her favorite TV show, Silver Arrow, a sci-fi fantasy show Ari had watched with her mother when she was younger. Ari and her new friends did cosplay as a group and went to a convention together.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting so much of this book to be about the show and their fandom. I thought it was kind of boring and wish the book had focused on it less.
Camden and Ari quickly started dating. At first everything went well, but as Ari learned more about the real Camden and his past, things became much more complicated. Camden’s artist mother was a nonconformist, so he had never experienced all the things most people do. He always had wanted a sense of normalcy and felt he was getting close when he made friends with Max and Eliza and then Ari.
Camden wanted to belong to something, but he wasn’t used to following rules he didn’t like or putting in some effort for it. He didn’t know how to make a relationship work, which caused them to break up, but they later got back together. It felt like the times when Ari tried to get close to him, he ended up pushing her away. But Ari did the same the couple of times he tried to get close to her. It seemed like they didn’t get too close to each other emotionally and I would of liked it more if they had.
Ari’s family cared for her very much. She had a loving mother, stepfather, and half-sister, though it didn’t always seem that way. Ari was always stuck babysitting her half-sister, Dani or working at her stepfather, Richard’s, art supply store.
Ari’s mother was often at work and never seemed to have time to spend with Ari and Dani. At first she worked as a nurse at night, so she was sleeping during the day. But then she later got a job during the day, but it was 90 minutes away, so she still wasn’t spending very much time with her family. It was like the only time her mother was paying attention to her was to tell her what she could and could not do. I think her mother wanted the best for her, but didn’t always know what that was, especially after that night over a year ago. Towards the end, Ari and her mother had a heart to heart talk, which started to improve their relationship.
Richard didn’t always agree with her mother’s decisions and tried to stand up for Ari. But he didn’t want to get between her and her mother or end up causing a fight between him and her mother, so he ended up backing down.
Ari’s best friend was Kendall. Kendall was supportive, but also a little jealous of Ari because things came much easier to Ari than they did to her. Kendall felt awkward with Ari’s new friends since she hadn’t seen Silver Arrow and wasn’t a fan of it. But despite that, she hung out with them for Ari and also because she had a crush on James, one of Camden’s friends.
Camden’s other friends were Max and Eliza. Max was always kind, but didn’t want to get int the middle of things. He went along with what Eliza wanted and participated in the cosplay, even though he didn’t care as much about it as she did.
Eliza was the opposite of Max. She was rude, bossy, and selfish. She was always the one in charge of the cosplay and she became annoyed if anyone interfered with her plans. Not only that, but she stole something from Richard’s store one day when they came to visit Ari at work and made up an excuse when she was confronted, but never apologized. Camden and Max said she was like that because she had her own stuff to deal with and had had to survive things worse than the rest of them, but they never said what that was. I think it it would have made more sense why Eliza acted the way she did and made it easier to empathize with her if the book had.
What Happens Now is a cute contemporary summer read and I overall liked it very much.
Rating: 4/5 Stars