Parents' Guide to

What Happens Next

By Joly Herman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Anorexia, ballet, and sisterhood meld in uneven tale.

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Focused on explaining, rather than showing, this effort to confront the effects of eating disorders on a family is poorly constructed. Moving back and forth through time, What Happens Next has some good moments, but lots of head scratchers. Blair's obsession and her disease seep into everything she touches, and her family walk on eggshells around her. This is true to life, and her youngest sister, Abby, is genuinely concerned. However, the timeline jumps back and forth in a way that feels stagey, and the story lacks the subtleties of developed characters.

Most disconcerting is the fact that Abby admits late in the book -- spoiler alert -- that she's a liar and chastises the reader for believing her story so far. "I am a liar, remember? I told you that, way back on page one. It's not my fault you didn't listen, you should trust people when they tell you what they are," she scolds. This revelation feels more like a bizarre excuse than an exciting reveal. Also, when Abby is physically and mentally coerced by adults to dig up a time capsule, her compliance feels strange and wrong. If the focus remained on the pain and healing that needs to happen in her family, and less on her own lies and the confusing subplot, this story could have had a bigger impact. As it is, it feels pieced together.

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