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Review by Suze
Ari likes Camden a lot. The first summer he's at the lake in her hometown she just watches him from afar and all the information she has about him comes from other people. She's trying to get better after cutting herself when her depression got really bad and she isn't ready to make contact yet. A year later she's doing much better. She's now able to live with her illness and can deal with it most of the time. It isn't easy though. Her mother is distant, Ari has to take care of her little sister and the rest of the time she's working in her stepfather's shop to help him out. Ari has little free time and she often doesn't get the space to do the things she likes. The fact that her best friend will be leaving after the summer doesn't make it any better. Fortunately anything can happen during those few months without school and nothing has been decided yet.
Camden's back at the lake together with his friends. This second summer Ari runs into him and they start talking. They actually have many things in common and Ari's crush on him gets even bigger. They love the same television show and Camden's friends are into cosplay. They include Ari and want her to dress up with them. Finally she feels like she belongs. Only the real Camden is nothing like the Camden she created for herself in her dreams. He's damaged and his seemingly glamorous life isn't that much fun after all. It makes him more human and approachable, but it also brings new problems. Will things keep going well when the summer progresses or will the time with Camden and his friends damage Ari even more?
What Happens Now is a beautiful story. Ari struggles and even though she has so many things to feel bad about she's strong and she tries to make something of every day. Jennifer Castle doesn't only describe Ari's depression with words, her writing made me actually feel what Ari was feeling. I think that's an admirable achievement. It makes the story raw, honest and authentic. The cheerful summer weather and the fun of spending time with friends are good counterparts for the darker elements of the story. The balance is exactly right, it never becomes too much to handle or too heavy.
You often don't know what happens behind closed doors. Even if someone else might seem to have what you want that doesn't mean this person has a perfect life. Ari and her new friends all struggle with something and that is partially the glue that binds them. Camden is special and it's clear from the start that there's a connection. There are so many obstacles in their way, but Ari is a fighter. I loved that about her. She learns a lot about herself and her family by consciously thinking things through. I admired her for it and the fact that she's so grown up even though she's still young made me love her character even more.
Jennifer Castle handles the sensitive topic of mental health issues very well. She makes it part of Ari's personality, but Ari isn't just her illness, she's so much more. The depression, and everything that happened because of it, is always there and reading about Ari's relationship with her mother and all the responsibilities she has often brought tears to my eyes. I think Jennifer Castle has written an impressive story, one that's a definite must-read if you like YA summer stories with plenty of depth.