Summary: What Happens Next
What Happens Next is Claire Swinarski’s debut middle-grade novel. The book follows Abby McCourt, astronomy lover, and her family as they deal with her oldest sister, Blair getting diagnosed with anorexia. As Blair goes off to rehab, leaving a potential ballet career in the lurch, the McCourt’s small town is abuzz with a highly anticipated solar eclipse. Abby is not handling her sister’s absence very well. Especially because she was closest to Blair and doesn’t have the best relationship with her more brash middle-sister, Jade.
At the same time, she stumbles upon a famous astronomer who’s staying at her family’s lodge. He enlists her to assist him in locating a lost telescope. Eager to avoid the pain of her sister’s situation, Abby throws herself into helping Professor Lacamoire. Interestingly, this story is told in alternating timelines, simultaneously showing readers how things went wrong for Blair and how Abby is coping with Blair’s departure and pending return from rehab.
I love reading books with bright female protagonists, and Abby is one. Her voice is memorable and she’s smart and introspective, while also being active. I enjoyed looking at her family through her lens, seeing her struggle with watching her older sister — whom she looked up to — fall apart and need to get help. Blair’s anorexia affects their family and even Abby’s friendships at school and readers will sympathize with Abby’s sometimes-complicated emotions on the matter.
Something else I enjoyed was the McCourt family. Each member feels so real, like they could be a family next door. But, with all the shining parts of this book, the central, unmissable theme is sisterhood. Swinarski shows us what the girls were like before Blair’s anorexia and how they find their way to a new kind of relationship after Blair goes to rehab and even a bit of their adjustment when she returns.
While I understand his role in the book, I could have read the entire story without the Lacamoire angle. I found the sections where he features to be less interesting — except for maybe that big reveal at the end.
Overall: What Happens Next
What Happens Next is a clever, moving debut about the impact of an eating disorder on a family. This book is well-researched and engaging. It’s one of those rare books with a hard-to-forget protagonist who will keep you turning the pages. Although the timelines jump about a bit, it’s not difficult to follow — I kept up even though I was listening on audio. Any kids who enjoy astronomy, struggle with mental illness, or have siblings who do will enjoy this middle-grade release. I cannot wait to read Claire Swinarski’s next novel, The Kate In Between.
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More Books About Siblings
- We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly
- The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser
- More to the Story by Hena Khan
Have you read What Happens Next? What did you think? I’m excited to be sharing my interview with Claire Swinarski tomorrow! She’ll be answering questions about writing her debut novel and sisterhood.