Blog Tour & Review: This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

Hi guys! I'm here today on the blog to be a part of the blog tour for Paula Stokes's next book, This Is How It Happened. In addition to all of these awesome graphics and things, I also have my review of the book! So without further ado, let's get things started.

About The Book


Title: This Is How It Happened
Author: Paula Stokes
Publisher: HarperTeen
Hardcover, 384 Pages
Published July 2017 (Two days ago!)
Summary: When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened. As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

Guest Post By Paula!

Hi everyone :) This is Day 4 of my THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED blog tour. You can find the whole schedule of posts in the lead post on my blog right now.

I’m blogging about the different challenges I faced while writing and revising the novel. Challenge #4 was how to best incorporate romance into the book. The story is about Genevieve Grace, a girl who is in a car crash that kills her famous YouTube boyfriend. When Gen wakes up from a coma, she knows that she was driving, but she doesn’t remember what happened.

So right away you might be like “Hey Paula, why does this book even need romance?” Fair question. The easiest reply to it is that my editor and her boss requested a romantic element to the story. Maybe you don’t like hearing that, but let’s consider some things. If you’re a book blogger or voracious reader, you probably devour over 60 books a year. Some of you read over 150 books. That is AMAZING and I am grateful there are people like you out there, but you are also not the “normal consumer” that publishers think about when they decide to acquire a novel. I know book bloggers often buy and collect their favorite books, but they also get a lot of books for free. I don’t know anyone who could afford to buy 150 books a year. So, while many book bloggers think “Man. ALL of these books have romances. It would be refreshing for a story not to have a romantic component” more traditional recreational readers who read 20 to 50 books a year are likely to go into a YA novel expecting a romance and possibly feel let down if it’s not there.

It’s important to remember that Publishing is a business, and even that book you think is “a total work of art” was probably systematically analyzed by editors and sales team members with respect to “but how many people will actually buy this?” You might be sick of romances in YA, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is.

But I’m not trying to throw my publisher under the bus here. If I had been Very Opposed to a romance, my editor would’ve let me write the book without one and then we’d have taken a look together at how the overall story worked. My thing is that my editor has worked at HarperTeen for several years—she’s smart and knows what readers want. Her boss is the executive editor of the HarperTeen imprint. I trusted their judgment without question when they recommended including a romantic element. Also, I really like to write romances :)

So, how do you give the main character of a story where her boyfriend has just died in a car accident where she was driving a new guy in her life without making her seem like a terrible person? The first thing I did was use the flashbacks to show that Genevieve and Dallas’s relationship wasn’t very healthy and was already starting to fall apart. This was easily workable with the core story plan because I knew a fight was what led the two of them out onto the rainy streets late at night and I knew the fight had to do with Dallas deviating from the path he and Genevieve had shared for many years.

Some people might read the flashbacks and think that both Genevieve and Dallas are bad people. He has messed up and hurt her. She’s kind of controlling and struggles to deal with change. I don’t mean for either of them to seem like bad people. I tried to craft a realistic relationship that is falling apart because the two members want different things for the future. This is a very common problem. In my own past, I had relationships end because the guy wanted kids and I didn’t, because a different guy needed me to move to NYC and there was no way I could make that happen. Simply put, sometimes what one or both people in a relationship want changes, or maybe what they wanted was different all along and the other person was just in denial. There are some things you just can’t (or don’t want to) compromise on.

But even though Genevieve realizes that she and Dallas wouldn’t have stayed together if he had survived, it was still tricky letting her have romantic feelings for a new guy, especially in the midst of her grief, guilt, and confusion. As always, I made the relationship build slowly, from a place of friendship and trust. At first Genevieve only knows Elliott from the park. They go hiking as part of their daily work and she experiences a bit of peace for the first time in weeks. Elliott invites her to hang out as friends and they engage in another recreational activity that makes her feel better. Weeks pass. They hang out again and kiss, but Genevieve pushes Elliott away because she feels ashamed of her attraction to him. It takes several more weeks before she realizes that she doesn’t have to feel guilty about her emotions.

This point was really honed in on by an early beta-reader. One of the first drafts has Genevieve being interviewed at the end of the book and a journalist asks her about her feelings for Elliott. She still feels shame in that draft and says she won’t talk about her and Elliott. “I feel like the trolls win,” my beta-reader said. “It’s no one’s damn business if she likes someone new. They don’t get to demand that she act like their fave musician’s grieving widow for X amount of time, especially when they don’t even know all the facts.”

His words really resonated. He mentioned how people had expectations for Heath Ledger’s girlfriend and how it was ridiculous that fans got upset when she dated someone new years after Ledger’s death. And he’s right, you know? We feel things on different timetables. There is no one acceptable period to wait after someone dies or divorces you to start dating again. Some people are able to accept and absorb the grief and feel comfortable being vulnerable with a new partner quite quickly. Others need a much longer period of mourning. And either way is okay, as long as you’re being honest about your feelings, your needs, and your limitations.

There are plenty of people, online and off, who feel the need to judge Genevieve for becoming romantically involved with Elliott just a couple months after Dallas’s death. But by the end of the book she’s become empowered enough to embrace her feelings and make decisions about her budding relationship without letting a bunch of strangers make her feel bad for being the person she is.

What do you think about relationships in YA novels? Are you a sucker for a good ship in any genre, or do you wish more books skipped romance in favor of other types of storylines or relationships? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Want to win a copy of THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED or any of my novels? Enter the Rafflecopter below. And look for tomorrow’s blog tour stop about the challenge of writing my first “issue book” on We Live and Breathe Books.

Displaying Paula Stokes 2 web res.jpg

Paula Stokes is the author of several novels, most recently This is How it Happened, Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

I received an ARC of this book from Paula herself to review, and I'm honestly so glad that I did. I really enjoyed some of her previous books, and the entire premise of this one seemed promising and mysterious, especially since the summary hints that Genevieve ends up being more responsible for her boyfriend's death than she originally thought. 

As the summary explains, Genevieve wakes up after being in a terrible car accident that killed her boyfriend and rising YouTube star, Dallas. In addition to having to deal with that horrible loss, she also has to struggle with not being able to remember exactly what happened that night, and going off of whatever social media seems to be telling her. So Brad Freeman, the driver of the other truck in the accident, is basically a social pariah who is being bullied and harassed and physically and verbally taunted for killing Dallas, even though there weren't really conclusive results from the scene. But then Genevieve starts remembering pieces of the accident...and things aren't as cut-and-dry as they seem when it comes to the guilty party. And I'm not going to spoil it for you guys -- you're just going to have to read this book yourself.

(Mild spoilers here so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read this book yet!) Elliot was definitely my favorite character in the book. Not only was he so sweet and adorable and smart and kind, but even when Genevieve came to him with deep struggles and stories and confessions that she didn't have the courage to tell anyone else yet, he didn't treat her horribly or write her off or call her terrible names. He was understanding and patient, and he even brought up several important points about bravery and compassion and doing the right thing, all which are admirable traits in both characters in stories and in people outside of the pages. And then you even learn about how own dark past and the mistakes he has made, and they're definitely shocking and unexpected, and you learn that even the people who seem the most put together and perfect have their demons that they are battling with. 

What I liked most about Genevieve was that she was a genuinely good soul, even when life had dished her out a terrible hand and she found herself in less than desirable situations. Even if she had moments where her fear was taking control of her, she never stopped knowing in her mind and in her heart what was right and what was wrong. And that was a really admirable thing to read in a character -- because not everybody, in books and also in real life, can be like that. Not everyone can be brave despite the consequences, or face fears that others could never dream of having to battle with. Genevieve was such a great model for doing the right thing even after making mistakes that weren't easy to confront, which was a really admirable thing to read about. It really made me like her a lot.

The only character that I wasn't crazy about in this book was, surprisingly, Dallas. From the brief scenes where we met him, I didn't like how he would talk to Genevieve, or how he would behave, or even some of the terrible things he had done that had driven them apart. (And this is the moment where I lecture to all of my readers that what Dallas did is never ever okay in any circumstance and if I had been Genevieve I never would've taken him back at all.) But yeah, from the few scenes where he was actually alive and interacting with the story, he seemed kind of arrogant and it definitely felt like all of his fame went to his head, which made him a bit unlikable. *shrugs* Maybe that was the intention, or maybe that's just my take on it. 

In the end, I feel that this book was an excellent example not only of doing the right thing even when it may be hard or scary, but it also shares the importance of digital responsibility and the negative effects of cyberbullying as well. I actually really enjoyed the parts of the book where it showed the comments and Tweets on YouTube videos and articles, because while some of the things that people were saying were terrible and awful and just downright repulsive, they weren't really fiction. Those words and insults were in the same realm of some stuff that I see on Facebook every single day. (But never participate in, of course, because I'm an actual human being with actual human dignity and respect for others.) Seeing how cruel and hurtful and downright threatening people were to each other through a computer screen was really eye-opening and terrifying, which Genevieve even acknowledges in the book several times.

So yeah. Not only is this a great book, but you get tons of important life lessons about love and loss and acceptance and bullying and facing your fears and doing the right thing as well. You'll walk away from this book itching to be a better person because of Genevieve's twisted, confusing story and all of the terrible things that happened surrounding the death of Dallas.

Overall, I really enjoyed This Is How It Happened. Paula Stokes is an excellent writer in the sense that her books always keep you on the edge of the seat and wanting the next chapter, and she even throws in some shocking plot twists that you don't see coming. This was a quick, easy read that I sped though at the speed of light because it was just so good that I didn't want to put it down -- which, of course, meant that I totally shirked all of my other responsibilities, but it was totally worth it. If this book isn't on your TBR already, it definitely should be, because there is so much to enjoy when it comes to the book. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was a 4 out of 5 stars from me.

So that was my review of the book itself, and now since you stuck around and read the whole's time for a giveaway!


Once again, I'd like to thank Paula for including us in her blog tour and for this awesome guest post! I really enjoyed reading her book and all of the mystery and thrills that came along with it. If this book isn't on your TBR yet, it certainly should be! 

1 comment

  1. I've been dying to read some of Paula's works though, Just read some reviews on goodreads and they're all saying lots of good stuffs about her works. :3


We want to hear what YOU have to say! Go ahead and share your thoughts and opinions below. :-) (We promise we don't bite!)