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It Never Stays There

Erin reviews Tara Altebrando's What Happens Here, a tale of travel, home, friendship and what happens when everything falls apart.

It Never Stays There

BOOK REPORT for What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando

Cover Story: Legit
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 8
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Contortionism, European Tour, Veronica Mars
Quasi-Anti-Bonus Factor: No Justice
Relationship Status: I Want To Travel Worlds With You

Cover Story: Legit

You could definitely take this book out onto the subway or to the park or even out to lunch.  The cover isn't lurid or particularly youthful; it doesn't scream chick flick or kiddie lit, and for that, I say THANK YOU, publishers.  Please, let me buy you a cocktail to reward you for your efforts!  Yes, that's what happens when you Do The Right Thing!  Cocktails!

The Deal:

Lindsay and Chloe have been best friends since they were in the crib together.  Their mothers are college roommates and besties as well and the girls have lived their entire lives together, even moving from North Carolina to Las Vegas together.  Which is why, when Chloe's parents announce that the whole family is going to spend a few weeks on one of those guided European tours and that Lindsay doesn't count as part of the family, both girls are totally crushed.  It's always been their dream to escape Vegas, with its cheap, tacky reproductions of the Eiffel Tower or the Venetian canals, and see the real thing, and now Chloe is going without Lindsay.

Chloe and her family have a great time in Europe, growing closer and happier and freer in ways they hadn't imagined they could.  And Chloe even meets a cute guy, Danny, who happens to be from Vegas too.  Suddenly, things are looking up.  She'll come home from Europe, a little wiser, a little more cultured, with a cute new boyfriend to boot, and she and Lindsay will have the best senior year evs.

But that's not how it happens.  Not at all.

When Chloe returns, Lindsay isn't there.  Her vacation boyfriend, Danny, isn't nearly as cute or as interesting now that they're back home.  And Lindsay's brother Noah and Lindsay's mom, Ms Watts, are both completely pissed off at Chloe's entire family. 

Undone, Chloe must look at her life, the plans she had, the plans she's lost, and put together something new for herself.

BFF Charm: Yay

Chloe is a Type A Dreamer, and for me reading her story was a bit like reading my diary.  She longs to own houses in various different countries, and so she has folders full of real estate listings - villa rentals in Tuscany, co-ops in Croatia - all carefully researched and planned and coordinated.  

And that's totally like me!  I used to plan dream vacations, down to price checking flights, looking at rentals, mapping out each day's festivities (when, in actuality, I'm the world's laziest vacationer; I mostly want to sleep and then scope out the local bakery and bar).  Besides being adorably Type A, Chloe is also fiercely loyal to her friend, smart, wise beyond her years and wonderfully open to adventure.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

OH, NOAH.  Why you so sexy, baby?  Er, uh . . . well, you may remember from reading "The Deal" that Chloe's boyfriend is Danny.  And that is technically true.  But Chloe's had a long-time crush on Noah, which may just be requited . . .

Talky Talk: Straight Up

I love Altebrando's style in every book of hers that I've read, and this book is no exception.  This book is a little more practically written than, say, Dreamland Social Club, but I like that it's grounded and honest.  Its realism and stark honesty provide a great backdrop for Chloe's European vacation, as well as the problems that await her at home.

Bonus Factor: Contortionism

(I Googled the word "contortionism" and I cannot unsee those things.  Please accept this appropriate picture of a lady doing a handstand  in front of the Eiffel Tower instead.)

Chloe's older sister, Zoe, dreams of getting a part in Cirque du Soleil, so she is constantly working on her flexibility.  Which means she can often be found hilariously entering and exiting rooms on her hands, or crab-walking, or in backbend. 

Bonus Factor: European Tour

Honey child!  London, Paris, Venice, Rome?  Yes, please!!  Man, I miss England so much (and we won't even get into how I was supposed to go to Italy in September, sniff!)!!  Except, has anyone ever actually gone on one of those guided tours?  They sound like special hell to me.  I mean, it combines my least favorite things: hanging out with strangers, having to do things on a schedule, and going to tourist places.  Can someone explain what makes them good?

Bonus Factor: Veronica Mars

Let's hear it for investigations!  When Chloe returns home, she puts her Nancy Drew cap on and she and Noah use some of Lindsay's texts to try to figure out her movements on the last night anyone saw her.  I love a good mystery, and this one had me totally, completely invested.  Which, ironically, leads me to my one problem with this book:

Quasi-Anti-Bonus Factor: No Justice

Okay, I have done a really good job, I think, not spoiling you guys about this book.  That's going to end right now.  So!  Look away!  Look thee far away, for I need to get something off my chest, but it requires spoiling about the book, so if you want the book to have an element of surprise, then you need to stop reading now - why?  Why are you still reading this?  The only people who should still be reading this are people who've already read this book!  The rest of you, stop!  Stop right now!  I'm warning you!  I'm telling you, right now!  Stop it!  Okay, here goes.

Okay, so here's my one, tiny, little problem with this book, and it's hard to even call it a problem, because I know, even as I complain about it, that it's not the point of the book.  But here goes!  Man, I wish there'd been justice for Lindsay.  I'm assuming, if you've read this far, that you've read this book or you just don't care about being spoiled, but, I mean - she gets raped, and killed, and stuffed in a bag . . . and she just gets left there.  She just gets left.  And they find the guy, by the end, we think anyway, but there's nothing on who he is, why he did it, why Lindsay, was she his first victim, how did he lead her away, etc.  And, I know!  I know that's all a different story in a different book, but I also want to read that book.  It's to Altebrando's credit that I care about Lindsay, a lot, and my heart hurts for her, and I want to see justice and I want to know why this terrible thing happened to her and I want to see the man who did it get punished for his crimes, and I didn't get to experience any of that and now I have all these punchy feelings and nowhere to put them.

Okay, okay, SPOILERS OVER NOW.

Casting Call:

Elizabeth Olsen as Chloe

Ethan Peck as Noah

Relationship Status: I Want To Travel Worlds With You

Oh, book, you BROKE MY HEART INTO TINY LITTLE PIECES.  Why'd you have to go and do that, huh?  But even though you made me do that pathetic half-sobbing, half-snorfling thing, I still love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck, and I want to hang out some more.  Won't you be my travel buddy?  We can find new lands together, drink prosecco at 10 am, eat delicious new food and find beauty everywhere.  And we'll never go home, where real life can intrude so horribly on our dreams.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from the author.  I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!).  What Happens Here is available in stores now.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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