TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
"When It Happens" is a classic coming-of-age, falling-in-love story, told here in alternating chapters by two seniors, brainy Sara and slacker musician Tobey. The characters are exquisitely real, from the way they talk to their friends and teachers to their private insecurities and fears. The first half of the novel is a powerhouse, as Sara falls for "Greek god" jock Dave, while kind, observant outsider Tobey keeps a close eye on the relationship. As Sara starts to realize that she never feels comfortable with Dave and his popular friends, she also begins to develop an amazing bond with Tobey. Sara's friend Laila describes the growing connection between the two as "something real," and that's exactly what it is.
The story loses some steam in the second half, after Tobey and Sara inevitably get together. What should have been the climax of the book occurs at about the midway point, after which there are some contrived obstacles placed in the path of Tobey and Sara's relationship. Still, because the characters seem so incredibly genuine, most readers will be caught up in this story and hate to see it end. Definitely recommended for older teens, particularly girls, although Tobey's narration might draw some boys in, too.