Review: That’s Not What Happened

It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story — that she died proclaiming her faith.But it’s not true.I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it.

Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight… but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did — and didn’t — happen that day.Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up…

Sadly, this is a timely piece of work and based off our reality today. I guess recent events are what prompted me to read this, and I’m glad I did because this book is pretty thought provoking. Even though it’s fiction, it’s got a powerful message about very real issues in our country today. The main one being about not letting our voices be silenced when we need to speak up about what is true and right.

The story moves at a quick pace as the main character, Leanne, tells her story. Through flashbacks and letters written by the other survivors, Leanne breaks down the events of the day of the shooting and what really happened with her and her best friend in the bathroom. But as she tells her story, she is faced with opposition and she feels the guilt about not speaking up sooner, so she becomes obsessed with wanting to get the truth out before the book about her best friend is written. In the end, though, Leanne realizes that maybe some of the truths shouldn’t be revealed, and she leaves the fate of the letters in another’s hands

What kept me interested in reading was the stories of each survivor and how they remembered that day. Each of them were looked at differently by the media, as well as how they coped with their survival, but no one really knew their truths. It wasn’t just the story about Leanne’s best friend (Sarah) that they got wrong – it was pretty much all of the kids. One of the letters reveals how the story about Sarah started in the first place, and that eventually drives a wedge between Leanne and one of the other survivors.

The characters were all interesting, coming from different backgrounds and were all in different grades when the shooting happened. They were all perfectly flawed in a way that makes you love them and want to know them more. Despite the book being a normal length for a young-adult novel, I feel like there was more we could’ve learned about them – it’s not a critical way that I’m saying this, I just wanted to spend more time with these characters (well, not Sarah’s parents).

As impactful I think this book is, it still isn’t going to end up as one of my favorites. I liked it well enough, but there’s that certain something that is missing that makes it a book that I really feel deep in my soul. I think it was the fact that, while I liked the characters, I didn’t get emotionally attached to them. I’ll still recommend this book when I can, as it touches on a very important topic.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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