By Ekta R. Garg
April 5, 2017
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
The close friendship between two college students shatters when one of them takes advantage of the other. They will have to find a way to move forward personally and together if either of them ever want a normal life again. Author Amy Hatvany handles date rape in a story that evokes no sympathy in the new novel It Happens All the Time.
Amber and Tyler have been best friends since their early teens. They bonded when Tyler moved to their small Pacific Northwest town of Bellingham, Washington, and Tyler’s draw to Amber is clear and strong. What started as a friendship has developed into much more for him.
Unfortunately, Amber doesn’t return his romantic feelings. Yes, Tyler is essential to her life. After all, he was the one to stand by her when anorexia had claimed her mind and body. He was the one who found her when she collapsed and sat by her in the hospital as she fought to return to a healthier state. Tyler means home, but he doesn’t mean love.
That place is reserved for Daniel, Amber’s fiancé. After dating only a few months, Daniel proposes and Amber accepts. She comes home for Christmas giddy and brimming with plans to move to Seattle with Daniel after graduation so he can start medical school and she can fulfill her ultimate goal of being a trainer to professional athletes. Seeing Tyler at Christmastime reminds her of their uncomfortable exchange a few months earlier when he declared his love for her, but Tyler seems to have accepted her rejection. Their friendship returns to a more comfortable place, and once again they’re joking around and sharing their lives.
Tyler can’t help slip in suggestions that Amber got engaged too soon, however, and she begins to question her relationship with Daniel. She wonders whether she jumped into an engagement because of love or her inability to control her own life. She comes home for the summer with those questions weighing heavily on her mind, and seeing Tyler again reinforces for her that she does have other options.
They go to a Fourth of July party together and find themselves making out on the dance floor and then looking for a bedroom. At the last minute, Amber changes her mind but Tyler doesn’t and then the unthinkable happens: Tyler rapes Amber. What follows is the fallout of the crime as Amber and Tyler try to decide what it means for their relationship and themselves.
Author Amy Hatvany writes from personal experience. In an author’s note she says that as a victim of sexual assault herself, she hopes to use the book to start a conversation. Unfortunately, a conversation becomes difficult within the context of this particular novel.
Neither Amber nor Tyler evoke any sympathy. Amber asserts repeatedly that she isn’t attracted to Tyler, yet she goes out of her way to flirt with him and follow him to a bedroom. Readers will have a hard time finding her self-righteousness after the rape justified, especially when she embraces a self-destructive lifestyle and eschews the love and support of her parents (the true heroes of the book who, unfortunately, get relegated to the background.)
Tyler’s stubbornness that Amber is the only girl for him sounds like something out of a cheesy TV movie. Hatvany offers an unconvincing backstory for him that reeks of cliché. Tyler’s parents fit standard stereotypes—his mother whines about the unfairness of her own life, and his father chases women. With such blatant home issues, it’s a wonder Tyler hasn’t broken the law long before this.
Rape is inexcusable under any circumstances. It is a crime and should be treated as such. What Hatvany hopes to achieve almost backfires with the extreme behavior of her protagonists. If she accomplishes anything, it is to show that the events leading up to the crime can start in a complicated mess.
Instead of a novel where a woman realizes she could have made better choices and uses her own horrible experience for good, the book turns into a cringe-worthy tome of harmful behavior. Even with the best of intentions, Hatvany misses the mark by a wide margin. I recommend readers Bypass It Happens All the Time.