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WHAT HAPPENED by Peter Johnson


by Peter Johnson

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2007
ISBN: 1-932425-67-5
Publisher: Front Street/Boyds Mills

This slim work, authored by an award-winning poet, is well written and even compelling at times, though nothing really happens and characters change minimally. The mood never rises much above “bleak,” and the characters are, if not stereotypical, mostly understated. A pair of teenaged brothers, who have lost their mother and were abandoned shortly thereafter by their father, live with their aunt in Buffalo, N.Y. The boys go to a party and are offered a ride by the high-school bully and his sidekick who are drunk and stoned. There’s a lot of snow, and with the mix of teenaged boys, drugs, alcohol, a fancy car and a bully, something wrong is bound to happen. The bully driver hits a homeless person and flees the scene. His powerful and wealthy (perhaps abusive) father wants to whitewash the entire incident and therein lies the narrator’s conflict. A layer of tension is added when it is revealed that the narrator’s brother is in love with the bully’s sister and that both fathers once competed over the narrator’s mother when they were young. Perhaps this cautionary tale of male youth might find an audience among disaffected suburban teenagers; but readers should be prepared to hang on to the narrative as it slides between flashback and narrative just as the narrator hangs on for the ride of his life from the back seat. (Fiction. YA)