What Happened

What Happened

4.0 1
by Peter Johnson

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A hit-and-run accident threatens the happiness of two teenage borthers and exposes deeper mysteries. An unnamed sixteen-year-old's account of events begins on a snowy evening after his brother Kyle brawls with a classmate, Duane, over Duane's tsister, the beautiful Emily. The two basketball stars make apparent amends, and Duane offers the brothers a ride home from


A hit-and-run accident threatens the happiness of two teenage borthers and exposes deeper mysteries. An unnamed sixteen-year-old's account of events begins on a snowy evening after his brother Kyle brawls with a classmate, Duane, over Duane's tsister, the beautiful Emily. The two basketball stars make apparent amends, and Duane offers the brothers a ride home from a party. Drunk and still fuming at Kyle, Duane drives recklessly to scare his passengers. Duane hits someone on the road and then leaves Kyle, the narrator, and the victim's body to freeze while he speeds away. The next day, the narrator and Kyle must face Duane's powerful father. The man hated the boys' father when the two adults were in high school, and he hates Kyle for dating Emily. The brothers learn that the abandonment by their father after their mother's drath is only the tip of their father's mysterious history and only a sliver of What Happened.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Francisca Goldsmith
The unreliable but genuinely realistic narrator of this morality tale presents his story in doses that are by turn reportorial and wished-for alternatives. The unnamed sixteen-year-old and his seventeen-year-old brother, Kyle, live with their aunt in contemporary Buffalo, New York, having lost their mother some years earlier and abandoned by their father the day after her funeral. The brothers are athletic, given to sampling drugs as well as doing some drinking-although not as much as their friends and teammates-and alert to the nuances of class that influence power as much as the supposed effect of muscles or brains. A hit-and-run accident forms the pivotal event here: While the teenaged driver, son of a city scion, drives away, the narrator and Kyle tend to the victim. The brothers, however, run as soon as they know official help has arrived. They divulge nothing to their aunt or another adult about the accident or the roles that they and the driver played. Complicating matters are Kyle's girlfriend, the driver's sister, and a mystery about the brothers' mother and the girlfriend's father. Johnson, a poet, writes with elegant sparseness that evokes the snowy Buffalo scene, the chill of the brothers' fears, and the bald bravado of the driver and his father. Like Robert Cormier's The Rag and Bone Shop (Delacorte, 2001/VOYA October 2001), this story has staying power and deserves a wide readership.
Children's Literature - Gwen Vanderhage
"There are no facts, only interpretations." The existential quote from Nietzsche that opens the story sums up the way the sixteen-year-old unnamed narrator views his life. With a dead mother and a father who is long gone, the narrator's older brother Kyle is the only real anchor in his world. When the two boys are unwilling passengers in a drunken joyride that leads to an accident, no one is able to say what really happened, what the facts are. Kyle wants to run away and act as if the accident never happened. The driver wants to claim Kyle was driving. The driver's rich father says they will say whatever he tells them to say. And the narrator cannot do anything. He is immobilized by choices as he spins multiple endings that could have been. Told in flashbacks, imagined scenarios, and real-time vignettes, this skillfully written novel gets inside the head of a troubled teenager as he struggles to define Truth and his own identity.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
An account of an accident unfolds slowly, in lyrical prose, from the voice of an unnamed narrator. As one of four boys in a car that runs down a pedestrian late one snowy night after a party, the 16-year-old makes observations that are erratic and clouded, not only by his own drunkenness, but also by the troubled teen's somewhat skewed view of the world. The driver, Duane, an arrogant rich kid, is a teammate and nemesis of the narrator's older brother. Kyle is dating Duane's sister Emily and the brothers also learn that Duane's father was once in love with their own dead mother and hated their absentee father. The hit-and-run incident fuels antagonism between the families, as Kyle wants to do the right thing by going to the authorities and Duane's father wants to use his wealth and influence to cover it up. The stream-of-consciousness writing style somehow diffuses the power of the accident and a gun-wielding showdown at Duane's house but draws empathy for the narrator's heartbreak over his mother's death, father's abandonment, and a secret crush on Emily. His thoughts are fluid and woven together, offering alternate scenarios that suit his own needs and imagination, such as one in which his father shows up at a basketball game. While Duane and his father get their just deserts, the more satisfying ending is the poetical narrator coming to terms with his past and looking to a brighter future.
—Vicki ReutterCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Peter teaches English and creative writing at Providence College and is the winner of the 2001 James Laughlin Award for his collection of prose poems, Miracles & Mortifications. His other books include Love Poems for the Millennium and Pretty Happy!, both collections of prose poems, and I'm a Man, a series of short stories. What Happened was Mr. Johnson's highly acclaimed debut young adult novel. Peter lives with his family in Providence, Rhode Island.

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What Happened 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
WHAT HAPPENED begins with an apology. The narrator admits that what he is about to tell may seem "erratic" because that's the way his mind works. Readers will find the tale that follows does wind and weave through past and present, but as a whole it represents the troubled path of the narrator's life.

First, their mother dies, then their father disappears, and now the sixteen-year-old narrator and his brother, Kyle, live with their Aunt Lucy. Life hasn't been easy, and it's about to get even more complicated. There is a hit and run accident that involves the teens, some friends, and a man on a bicycle. Should they call the police or attempt to cover-up their crime?

Facts of the story become twisted and more complex as the brothers discover secrets about their mother's past relationship with the father of a friend. Aunt Lucy admits her knowledge of the past as she tries to help the two answer questions about their mother's death and why their father left. Although some questions are answered, the story mimics real life with its loose ends and untidy conclusions.

Peter Johnson takes his readers into the mind of the narrator for a glimpse into the life of a troubled teen. Life is definitely not a chronological series of events neatly catalogued by date and time. Johnson's story illustrates the crazy, jumbled order that makes up our daily lives.