Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)
*I received an e-arc from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion
Three years after the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since Lee’s best friend Sarah was killed in a bathroom stall. A story that gripped the nation. Sarah died proclaiming her faith. Spoke to the killer when no one else did. Except she didn’t. And three years later, only two people know the truth. Lee didn’t say anything then, and now even more people are going to get hurt. This is Lee’s final chance to set the record straight on everything.
School shooting survivor Lee begins to collect the stories of what happened that day. Letters by the very people who suffered. And slowly she realises that what everyone thought happened that day didn’t. Each new letter reveals something new, telling what the headlines didn’t show. And the survivors must come to terms with what they did or didn’t do.
I very much loved the concept of this book. The emotional backstory of how it reveals how school violence impacted each life. We witness what happened to each character that day and how its affected them three years down the line. Lee struggles with her mistake of her revealing the truth sooner. Ashley who struggles to accept anything but the reported story. Eden and her relationship with her deceased cousin who excelled in many ways. Miles is quiet and withdrawn while Denny, whose entrance letter inspires Lee to begin her search, is trying to change how he’s defined.
All of their lives are impacted by the truth. And how media reporting twist what was said and how things are circulated but have zero ounces of fact to them. It questions how its remembered and never corrected. It’s a shame that I struggled with this book. The situation is absolutely terrifying and saddening. Keplinger fails to bring out any emotional care for these kids. The lead characters had little to none depth throughout the novel. And the mystery plot felt very exaggerated. I enjoy the characters though, they were all very different, and it was interesting to see the difference in how they were all impacted. Lee was tough to like further down the line, especially the way she forces to other survivors to share their truth because she wanted everyone in this project she was doing. She doesn’t really take into the account that maybe not everyone was ready to talk or just wanted to move on.
Overall, I appreciate the job Keplinger has done with this story. That’s Not What Happened is a story of recovery and truth, it may not have gripped me, but I see the impact it could have on other readers who might appreciate it better than I have.
Content warnings: TBA