[Note to self: There's another YA novel I read between Weedflower and this one, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Clearly it was, uh, memorable.]
When It Happens is a love story between two idealistic high school seniors, told in alternating chapters from the protagonists' points of view. Sara is a good student, not part of the popular crowd but pretty enough to attract the attention of uber-cool Dave. Tobey is an underachiever, a smart guy with a band who doesn't see the need to do his homework, apply to college, or do anything that would keep him from moving to New York after graduation to make it big with his band.
At the start of the story, Sara is still hopped up on Dave. She's spent the summer thinking and doodling in her sketchbook about her idea of the perfect man, and she's hopeful that Dave is it. When he finally asks her out, she's over the moon -- but gradually, as time goes on and Dave's real, ugly personality comes out, she begins to realize that she's more in love with the idea of Dave than with Dave himself.
Tobey, meanwhile, spends his senior year plotting ways to get Sara to notice him. His plots are pretty tame, though: the most radical is a decision to buckle down and work, so he has a chance to get into Manhattan School of Music despite his lousy grades. Eventually Sara and Tobey give into their attraction, and the rest of the book chronicles their relationship through its inevitable ups and downs.
Good stuff: It's nice to read a book about smart kids who aren't necessarily defined by their smartness; sensitive kids who aren't emotional basket cases; and kids with healthy sex drives who make good, reasoned decisions about physical relationships. I liked Sara and Tobey; I liked their friends; I liked their teachers; I wanted to see things come out right.
Bad stuff: Is there any reason this book needed to be 320 pages long? I don't think so. And the villainous popular people were perhaps too cartoony (e.g., Caitlin can't just be a rich bitch; she also has to pop pills in the bathroom).
A good choice for moony girls.
When It Happens by Susane Colasanti. Viking, 2006, 320 pages.