That's Not What Happened

“That’s Not What Happened” is a captivating work by accomplished author, Kody Keplinger, who is best known for her debut novel, “The DUFF”.

Keplinger’s writing, admired for its distinctive voice and engagement with difficult topics, often explores the intricacies of relationships, self-discovery, and societal expectations.

In “That’s Not What Happened”, she bravely confronts the aftermath of a school shooting, unraveling a thought-provoking narrative that grapples with truth, memory, and the narratives we construct to survive trauma.

The book, a young adult novel, explores these themes through a diverse group of six survivors who find themselves struggling with the difference between the truth of their experience and the narratives that have been constructed in the aftermath of the tragic event.

The story highlights the complexities and the ambiguity of truth in the face of public scrutiny, focusing on the healing process and the struggle for personal authenticity.

Summary of the Book

The story unfolds three years after a school shooting in Virgil County High School that left nine people dead, including Sarah McHale, who has been posthumously labeled a martyr.

The narrative follows Leeann, better known as Leanne or Lee, who was Sarah’s best friend and one of the survivors.

As the third anniversary of the shooting approaches, Lee finds herself unable to reconcile the public’s image of Sarah with the person she knew and loved.

The book is structured around letters written by the six survivors who recount their personal experiences, challenging the misconceptions and rumors that have surrounded the shooting.

Each character brings a unique perspective, helping the reader understand the wide-ranging and long-lasting impacts of the incident.

The letters reveal the individual pain, guilt, and healing that the survivors are going through, each with their own struggles and their journey toward truth and reconciliation.

In this twisted tale of memory versus reality, Keplinger does not shy away from asking hard questions.

What happens when the world paints a picture of an event that contrasts sharply with your reality?

How do you find your voice amidst the clamor of media sensationalism and public opinion?

How does one navigate the treacherous waters of trauma, healing, and memory?

These are just some of the questions that the narrative seeks to explore, offering readers a chance to reflect on similar issues in our society today.

From the interactions between the survivors to the exploration of their inner turmoil, “That’s Not What Happened” provides an intimate look at the ongoing battle between truth and the stories we tell ourselves and others.

The weight of loss, the struggle for truth, and the desire for healing intermingle to form a poignant narrative that leaves a lasting impression.

Critical Analysis

The brilliance of “That’s Not What Happened” lies not only in its compelling plot but also in the robust development of its characters and the insightful handling of its themes.

Each of the six main characters, connected by the shared experience of the school shooting, is uniquely developed, showcasing a range of reactions to the traumatic event.

The plot is cleverly constructed, maintaining a balance between the individual narratives and the overarching storyline.

One of the strengths of the book is Keplinger’s ability to allow each character’s voice to shine through their letters, illuminating their experiences and emotions in a raw, unfiltered manner.

This ensures a deeper connection with the reader, fostering empathy and understanding.

However, a potential weakness could be the book’s heavy reliance on the letter format for storytelling.

While it allows for deeply personal narratives, it may at times feel disjointed, pulling the reader away from the immersive continuity of a traditional narrative.

Character development is skillfully done, with each character having a distinctive voice and perspective.

Their experiences are believable and emotionally resonant, and the diversity of their backgrounds adds depth to their collective story.

Despite the singular event that ties them together, each character has a unique journey toward healing, showcasing the different ways people cope with trauma.

Keplinger’s writing style is direct and accessible, a choice that suits the serious subject matter.

She does not shy away from the harsh realities of the characters’ experiences but presents them in a sensitive, thoughtful manner.

The main themes of truth, memory, and the healing process are well-explored throughout the book.

Keplinger’s examination of truth and memory, particularly in the face of public perception and media portrayal, is thought-provoking.

The book challenges the reader to consider the complexities of personal versus public narratives and the impact of such narratives on the individuals involved.

Personal Reaction and Opinions

On a personal note, “That’s Not What Happened” was a powerful and moving read.

The exploration of the emotional aftermath of a traumatic event felt very real and grounded.

Keplinger has done an incredible job portraying the complex web of emotions and the healing process of each character.

The narrative was gut-wrenching at times, especially when confronting the difference between the realities of the survivors and the stories spun by media and society.

It raised critical questions about the nature of truth and the role of perception in shaping our understanding of events.

One aspect of the book that stood out was the strength and depth of the characters.

The diversity of the survivors, not just in terms of their personalities but also their coping mechanisms, was commendable.

Each character’s struggle felt authentic, painting a picture of resilience in the face of adversity.

If there was a point of critique, it would be that some parts of the story felt a bit rushed, especially toward the end.

Some plot points could have been given more time to develop fully.

Nevertheless, this did not significantly detract from the overall impact of the story.

Keplinger handled the sensitive topic of school shootings with remarkable grace.

The book was not about the incident itself but about the survivors and their journey toward healing and reclaiming their truth.

This perspective was refreshing and served as a reminder of the untold stories that often get overshadowed by sensational media narratives.

Comparison with Other Works

While “That’s Not What Happened” is a standalone book, it shares common themes with other works by Kody Keplinger such as the importance of truth, the exploration of identity, and dealing with societal pressure.

In her previous work, “The DUFF”, the author looked at stereotypes and the perceptions of others, a theme that is also strongly present in this book.

However, “That’s Not What Happened” confronts these ideas with a heightened intensity and gravity, delving into the aftermath of a school shooting, a decidedly more somber context.

Compared to other books in the young adult genre tackling similar themes, “That’s Not What Happened” takes a unique approach.

Rather than focusing on the traumatic event itself, it shifts the focus to the survivors, examining their emotional journeys.

It presents a distinctive narrative style, the use of letters, that allows a deeper dive into the personal experiences of each character.

This perspective makes it stand out from other novels such as “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult or “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown that also discuss school shootings, but with different narrative strategies.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, “That’s Not What Happened” is a compelling, thought-provoking book that explores the aftermath of a traumatic event through the lens of those left behind.

Kody Keplinger delivers a powerfully nuanced portrayal of survivors grappling with the discrepancy between their personal experiences and the public narrative.

The book’s strengths lie in its well-developed characters, compelling themes, and unique narrative style.

However, the narrative format could be a double-edged sword, presenting an in-depth look at each character’s experience but occasionally disrupting the story’s flow.

Despite this minor point of critique, the book is undoubtedly impactful, making readers question the nature of truth, the power of perception, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

If you’re looking for a book that delves deep into the human psyche, navigates the complexities of truth and perception, and highlights the importance of understanding and empathy, “That’s Not What Happened” is a highly recommended read.

It leaves a lasting impression, prompting reflection long after the final page is turned.

Overall, Kody Keplinger has written a poignant, thought-provoking novel that invites us to consider the narratives we consume, the truths we accept, and the stories that are often left untold.

The survivors’ journey towards reclaiming their truth and healing from their traumatic experiences make “That’s Not What Happened” a significant contribution to young adult literature.

Our Rating for “That’s Not What Happened”

In a final evaluation of “That’s Not What Happened”, I’ll be providing a detailed rating based on several criteria: plot, characters, themes, writing style, and emotional impact.

Plot: The plot, centered on the aftermath of a school shooting, is tightly woven and thought-provoking.

Despite some minor pacing issues, the story keeps the reader engaged from start to finish.

Each character’s letter adds a new layer to the story, gradually unveiling the stark contrast between personal experiences and public narratives.

Rating: 8/10.

Characters: Kody Keplinger excels in crafting well-rounded, relatable characters.

The book presents a diverse cast of characters, each dealing with the trauma in their unique way.

The letter format allows for deep character exploration, and each character’s voice is distinct and authentic.

Rating: 9/10.

Themes: The exploration of themes such as truth, memory, perception, and the process of healing is impressively done.

Keplinger skillfully encourages readers to question the nature of truth and the power of public narratives, making the book not just a compelling story, but a thought-provoking discourse as well.

Rating: 9/10.

Writing Style: Keplinger’s writing is accessible, straightforward, and emotive.

Her skillful handling of a sensitive topic is commendable.

While the heavy reliance on the letter format is unique and allows for deep character exploration, it might occasionally disrupt the flow of the narrative.

Rating: 8/10.

Emotional Impact: This is where “That’s Not What Happened” truly shines. The emotional journeys of the characters are deeply moving and impactful.

The book doesn’t shy away from showing the raw, unfiltered emotions of the survivors, making the reader empathize with their struggles and their journey toward healing.

Rating: 9/10.

Overall Rating: With an average score of 8.6/10, “That’s Not What Happened” is a remarkable piece of young adult literature.

It masterfully intertwines a gripping narrative with thought-provoking themes, rich character development, and powerful emotional resonance.

Despite minor drawbacks, this book is highly recommended for anyone looking for a deep, reflective read.

It’s more than a book; it’s a journey through the complexities of truth, perception, and the indomitable human spirit.

We genuinely hope our comprehensive review has covered everything you were looking for.

You can also read further reviews on Amazon.

Thank you for reading and we hope to see you back here soon!