Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Meghan Review: These Things Happen by Richard Kramer

It's been a long time since a young adult novel has made me laugh as much or touched me quite as deeply as These Things Happen by Richard Kramer. Part of this book's charm comes from its unique set-up. Wesley, a fifteen-year-old, moves from his mother's and stepfather's house to spend a semester living with his father and his father's partner, George, in order to grow closer with his father. This kind of entangled, modern, nuclear family is exactly what I think needs to be explored more in literature, for both its humorous potential and its emotional value. It's important that young adult readers and adult readers alike see all different forms of family units in the books they read to increase acceptance and understanding for people whose lives may be a little different than their own.

Easily my favorite character in These Things Happen was flamboyant and hilarious George. Rather than falling prey to the tendency to stereotype gay men, Kramer works to emphasize George's individuality through his relationship with Wesley. For me, it was this relationship that was really the heart of the book. Kramer asks how we work to define relationships in our lives that aren't already defined for us---what is the role of the not-quite-stepfather partner in a young man's life?---while exploring how relationships that are already defined (father, mother) can fail us. George, who loves fine food and good theater, exposes Wesley to a whole world he hadn't seen before, and Wesley in turns offers George an unexpected chance to mentor someone younger.

The major turning point of this novel occurs after Wesley finds himself in the middle of a sudden act of violence. I can't say much more without going into spoilers, but this act of violence forces every character to reexamine themselves and their attitudes and assumptions. This situation forced me, as a reader, to challenge my own assumptions, and these thoughts stuck with me long after the book was over---which I think is the mark of a truly great book!

Because this book is told from various first-person perspective viewpoints, readers are given the chance to understand each character's thought process and motivations in a personal and powerful way. Every character has a unique voice, but all are surprisingly poetic. I found myself rooting for all the characters in different ways, and for the family as a whole throughout.

Recommended to: fans of Modern Family, Manhattan lovers, anyone who wants to understand mixed/LGBTQ families better, people looking for a heartfelt laugh on a winter's night

Release Date: November 7th 2012  Pages: 272  Format: Hardcover
SourceTLC Book Tours  Publisher: Unbridled Books  Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Meghan. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @meghanc303


  1. Sounds like an awesome book! I'll pick it up to read on the plane when I go to San Francisco.

  2. I love that you were able to root for each character individually and for the family as a whole as well - I think I'd enjoy getting to know these characters!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.


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