You can probably imagine my surprise when I learned at book club that Molly Ringwald (of Pretty In Pink, Breakfast Club, and Sixteen Candles fame) has added ‘author’ to her resume. I grew up watching and have a nostalgic appreciation for her movies, but truthfully, I didn’t expect much from her writing. While When It Happens To You was not my favorite book, I have to give credit where credit is due… it was a lot better than I was expecting and it led to a book club discussion that (I felt) brought people who were mostly strangers a lot closer than any of the other monthly discussions have.
When It Happens To You is a novel told through a series of vignettes from the perspective of different, but loosely connected, characters (a lot like the movie Love Actually). This part worked really well for me, and I thought Ringwald did an excellent job of subtly including the characters’ connections to each other in a way that was realistic, believable, and interesting. The stories are all told from a female character’s perspective and cover such topics as a spouse’s death, a transgender child, and a straying spouse. This is where I was disappointed – while the writing itself was surprisingly sophisticated at points, the interconnected plots were incredibly stale and predictable. The idea of a book with so many character narrators – all of whom are females – is so cool. It really disappointed me that each woman’s biggest concern seemed to be the main male in her life – whether he be dead, cheating, or questioning a gender identity. While the novel shed light on issues that are very real and present (the chapter on a transgender child was undoubtedly my favorite), it did so in a way that every other medium does, and I would have loved to see a fresher perspective.
Nonetheless, I do appreciate a book that can get a more real conversation out of a book club of people who don’t know each other very well. For the first time, the book club I discovered via goodreads had a much more personal discussion of our own experiences, as opposed to our typical “I liked the part where _______ happened.” discussions. For that, Ms. Ringwald must be given credit. If you have someone to discuss the book with, or are a huge Breakfast Club fan, give When It Happens To You a try. Otherwise, watch another hour of Lifetime to get your “overdone and overly dramatic” fix, and keep your eye out for something a bit more novel. (Hah, see what I did there?) I give When It Happens To You 2.5 stars. ★★ 1/2
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