Reviews

Anything Could Happen (but nothing actually did)| Review

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Title: Anything Could Happen
Author: Will Walton
Publication date:  May 2015
Publisher:  Push
ISBN: 0545709555
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Young-Adult, LGBTQ

GOODREADS DESCRIPTION

When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN is a poignant, hard-hitting exploration of love and friendship, a provocative debut that shows that sometimes we have to let things fall apart before we can make them whole again.

My Review

I wanted to love this book, I really did. I was very excited when I discovered it because I have some experience in the matter, but I was ultimately disappointed, and more than a little irritated by how this particular subject is treated here.

Anything Could Happen follows Tretch as he comes to terms with being gay and in love with his straight best friend Matt (I think? The facts that I forgot his name should tell you how much I didn’t like this book ). At least that’s what it wants you to think. The book started out spectacularly, we are introduced to Tretch and Matt through the moment Tretch realised he was in love with his best friend, and I melted right there because the description is so vivid:

 ‘That’s when he [Matt] slid his right hand along the edge of his seat, found mine, and squeezed. It sent this gentle buzzing feeling right up the back of my neck, and with it not a complete thought yet, but the essence of a thought, the kind that gets lots between bigger, louder thoughts. The kind of thought that’s barely louder than the feeling itself’

I mean look at that description! It’s incredible how beautifully Walton captured the feeling of realisation. Now, fast forward to three months after this moment, when the story really starts and the book just takes a turn for the worse—without ever stopping.

First off, I want to talk bout the plot, or rather, the lack of one. I am, by no means, an expert in how to construct a novel, but even I know that certain elements are a must, such as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Anything Could Happen only checked 2 out of 5, with a general lack of rising action, climax, and falling action, which severely weakened the plot (I guess you could argue that certain aspects could qualify as the rising and falling action but the lack of a significant climax was very obvious). What should’ve been a fairly straightforward plot, clearly outlined within the first few pages (and the blurb, which I will get to later on), was quickly overshadowed by a number of different subplots. While the main focus was always the way Tretch was supposed to handle his feelings towards Matt, it would take a backseat for the most random reasons, which served to further weaken the story and left me with a number of questions:

  • What was the point of the cancer theme? It’s brought up on several occasions without having a real impact on the plot itself—or even on Tretch himself since no one close to him actively suffers from it. This is a fairly significant thing to include in a book and I feel like it’s not given nearly enough gravity with the way it’s treated here.
  • Mental illness and PTSD are brought up through one specific character but they’re never given any serious recognition, nor do they contribute in any way to the story. Were they just meant to make Tretch realise that keeping a journal is a good idea? Again, there’s a lack of importance accorded.
  • Why was Tretch sick all of a sudden in the middle of the book? And why did his dad just shrug it off and not tell his mom how serious the situation had been? I mean, if this were a fantasy novel, I’d say Tretch were coming into his inheritance on his dad’s side, but this wasn’t the case…
  • There was a pregnant, distressed cow that had nothing to do with the story???? Was it some kind of metaphor???? Was it meant to scar Tretch and Matt (and me) emotionally??? The entire thing was incredibly weird, so who even knows???

My second big problem with Anything Could Happen was its characters and how incredibly unrealistic/forgettable they were, as well as their relationships with each other.  Matt, Tretch, and Amy all talk as if they were housewives from the 1950s (you know, the ones in tv series/films that are so polite you feel like they just want to drown you in honey), which comes off as incredibly fake, if a bit generic. Their interactions either feel as if someone were forcing them to play nice (that situation where your parents tell you to hang out with a kid you barely know and you both just kind of awkwardly make painful small talk because you both would rather be literally anywhere else), or what an idealised version of a group of 15 year olds should sound like (Tretch is so far removed from reality that he would be more convincing as an elf).

I also want to talk about the relationship between Tretch and Matt. They’re incredibly dependent on each other, which is frequently pointed out by other characters actually, to the point that it’s even a bit unhealthy if you ask me. Matt seems to need Tretch to the point where it creates an imbalance in their relationship: Tretch is always there for Matt while the latter never provides the same support. Even more than that, if it wasn’t repeatedly specified that Matt was very, very straight, I would think he were in love with Tretch and used the most ridiculous excuses to be near him (like inviting Tretch along on his date with Amy):

‘I—I need you to be there […] I need you like no other’

‘I’m so glad Tretch [that you came along on my date with Amy]. Really’

(Real talk: does this sound like a straight 15 year old living in a small town in, what I’m assuming is, the South of the US?? No, no it doesn’t)

The worst part of this book, however, was its blurb, and more specifically, this part:

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN is a poignant, hard-hitting exploration of love and friendship, a provocative debut that shows that sometimes we have to let things fall apart before we can make them whole again.

When I read this, I was absolutely hooked on the idea of it, even though I’ve only ever read maybe 2 other contemporary books in my life. With expectations that high, I was quickly disappointed after the first few chapters because Anything Could Happen was neither ‘poignant’ (it starts off that way but the feeling is lost fairly quickly), nor ‘hard-hitting’, nor even an ‘exploration of love and friendship’ to the degree that’s implied (Tretch only really angst over it for a short amount of time and then listens to a single song and just decides he’s over the whole thing. This is why no one takes 15 year olds seriously), while the fact that his life changes quite significantly doesn’t seem to have a heavy impact him since he really just takes it all in stride.

I went into this book fully expecting a strong emotional response, in fact, if I’m being honest, the heartbreak I expected from this book was one of the reasons I picked it up, so the execution of the story and the treatment of this particular subject have left me very disappointed. I do not recommend this book to anyone, for any reason, especially if you want a story that corresponds to your expectations.

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8 thoughts on “Anything Could Happen (but nothing actually did)| Review

    1. Thanks! The first chapter was very promising, and, even later, some paragraphs here and there were absolutely perfect, everything in between was rather disappointing. The entire thing was just made worst by the fact that I went into this legitimately expecting to be heartbroken and, at best, I came out annoyed.

      Liked by 1 person

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