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It Happens All the Time
Table of Contents
About The Book
From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)— comes a compelling story about friendship and consent, perfect for “fans of Jodi Picoult or Diane Chamberlain” (Library Journal).
I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.
Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.
Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.
What happens next will change them forever.
Told “with nuance and compassion” (Kirkus Reviews) in alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time is “a compulsory read for men and women” (Redbook) that will “consume you, drawing you into the very real plight of the main characters and leaving you hoping for a better future for us all” (Buzzfeed).
I don’t see the gun until it’s pointed right at me.
“Drive,” she says, shifting her upper body toward me. We are in the cab of my truck, me behind the wheel, Amber in the passenger seat. Her arm trembles, from uncertainty or the weight of the weapon, it’s impossible to tell.
I look at her, blinking fast. “Amber, wait—”
“Shut up.” Her voice is stone. Unyielding. She cocks the hammer with her thumb and I jerk to the left, toward the driver’s side window. My shoulders hunch up around my ears and then—I can’t help it—I say her name again.
“I said, shut up!” Amber repeats, this time with a shrill, unstable edge. She tilts her head toward the parking lot’s exit. “Go.” Her index finger rests against the side of the trigger. One twitch, one small movement, and it could all be over.
I straighten and try to steady my breath. Just do what she says. I put the key in the ignition, turn it, and the engine springs to life. The radio blasts and Amber and I both startle; she hurries to snap it off. A bead of sweat slides down my forehead, despite the bone-chilling bite in the air. It’s early November, and it strikes me that it has been almost a year since she came home for Christmas and found me waiting for her at her parents’ house. So much has happened since then. Everything has changed.
I pull out onto the street, telling myself that one of my coworkers inside the red-brick station house must have noticed the two of us together, that something in Amber’s stance or facial expression hinted at what she was about to do. Someone will follow us or, at the very least, call the police. But even as I think these things, I know they won’t happen. My partner, Mason, had already left for home, for his wife and daughter. The paramedic team who took over for us was behind the closed doors of the garage, double-checking inventory in the rig. The firefighters were upstairs in the bunk room, sleeping if they needed it, or in the gym, shooting the shit and lifting weights to pass the time. As first responders, we are accustomed to crises, our bodies conditioned to react. We race toward disaster instead of from it, but we don’t stand by the window, scanning our surroundings, expecting to see it as it strikes.
When I first stepped outside and saw Amber waiting for me in the dimly lit parking lot, I was foolish enough to feel a spark of hope. “We need to talk,” she said, and I nodded, noting that she was thinner than I’d seen her in years. Her face was gaunt, sharp cheekbones and enormous hazel eyes in darkened sockets. Her thin brown hair fell in messy waves to her jawline, and she wore a puffy black ski jacket that only emphasized her stick-slim legs. She couldn’t have weighed much more than a hundred pounds. Nine years ago, when she was fifteen, in the hospital at her worst, she had weighed eighty-two.
“Get on the freeway,” Amber says now, releasing the hammer and dropping the gun to her lap, where she cradles it, staring straight ahead. Her face is shrouded in shadow, making it impossible for me to guess what she is thinking. “Go south.”
“You don’t need to do this,” I say, hoping I might be able to reason with her. “You said we need to talk, so please . . . let’s talk.”
“Just drive where I tell you to drive.” She lifts the gun and points it at me again, this time holding it with two hands, one cupped under the other, her finger still lying next to the trigger.
“Okay, okay! Sorry.” A familiar, tightly wound panic coils in my chest; I worry what might happen if it springs loose. “You don’t need the gun.”
Her eyes narrow into slits. “Don’t tell me what I need.” She jabs the nose of the weapon into my ribs and cocks the hammer once more.
I gasp, and then pump the brakes, slowing to a stop at a red light. My eyes flit to our surroundings, searching for someone on the street, anyone I can signal for help, but it’s three in the morning in our sleepy college town. There are no other cars around.
The tips of my nerves burn beneath my skin, and then I hear my dad’s deep voice in my head: “Don’t just sit there, Son. Do something.”
The light turns green, and Amber pushes the gun deeper into my side, urging me forward. I ease my foot down on the gas pedal, contemplating the ways my father might take control of a situation like this. I see him shooting out his right arm and grabbing Amber by the back of the neck, slamming her head against the dashboard. I imagine his thick fingers curling into a fist and punching her in the face.
But I don’t want to hurt Amber, not more than I already have. What I want is for everything to go back the way it was when we first met—before my parents’ divorce and her illness, before we grew apart and then came back together, closer than ever, last June, after she came home from school with an engagement ring on her finger. I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.
“I hate you,” she says. Her voice sounds diseased, infected with disgust. “I hate you so fucking much.”
I wince, suspecting that I deserve every bit of that venom, the pain of the gun jammed against my ribs. I might even deserve the bullets inside it. I turn onto the freeway onramp, accelerate, and then, unsure what Amber’s plan might be, I look at her. “I know,” I say. “I hate me, too.”
Reading Group Guide
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Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship
is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that she might one day change her mind.
Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber and Tyler begin spending more time together than
they have in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, both friends sense a growing
flirtation between them. And one night, fueled by alcohol and growing concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.
What happens next will change them both forever.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. It Happens All the Time takes an active look at two experiences of rape culture. Were you able to relate to either of these perspectives, and, if so, in what ways?
2. As a group, discuss whether you were able to identify any warning signs that Tyler might violate Amber’s trust earlier in either narrative. Do you think there are any ways to identify people who are at risk of committing sexual assault?
3. At the time of her rape, Amber is questioning whether she might have feelings for Tyler and getting cold feet about her engagement to Daniel. If she hadn’t been raped, what do you think would have happened? Would she have gotten married? Would she and Tyler have started dating? Discuss a few different directions you think Amber’s life could have gone.
4. Tyler’s father and his coworker Mason both play significant roles in Tyler’s life, at times serving as voices of influence in his mind. Are there people in your life who sway you in similar ways?
5. “I think under the right set of circumstances . . . pretty much anyone is capable of horrific behavior,” Mason asserts when Tyler asks him if he thinks Tyler is “capable of something like [rape].” (pg. 155) Do you agree with this statement? Why, or why not? What circumstances do you think lead a person to commit sexual assault, and which of these do you see present in Tyler’s story?
6. The novel depicts a number of healthy and unhealthy ways people respond to and recover from trauma, including therapy, drug abuse, sex, support groups, social withdrawal, exercise, legal action, and violence. Compare and contrast some of these methods of dealing with trauma: Are some more self-destructive than others? Which appear to be the most useful for Amber’s recovery process? Is the “effectiveness” of a response to trauma even more important than that behavior being healthy?
7. Tom and Helen are put in a difficult position when they must support their daughter as she relapses into an eating disorder and other self-destructive behavior in the wake of her trauma. In what ways did you think they did a good job as parents confronted with these challenges? What might you do differently in their position?
8. Throughout the novel, both Tyler and Amber struggle with feelings of powerlessness and seek to reclaim control of their bodies. Why do you think control is so important to these characters, even prior to the rape?
9. Amber’s therapist Vanessa suggests that Amber is having sex with strangers to relive her rape within a context in which she can take charge. (pg. 292) Did this inclination surprise you? Do you think it was helpful for her to reclaim her experience in this way, or did it ultimately only cause her further harm?
10. Tyler repeatedly excuses his actions by saying he didn’t mean to hurt Amber, to which she replies, “What you meant to do doesn’t matter. What matters is what you did.” (pg. 253) Are intentions important in hurtful situations? Why or why not? Did Tyler’s intentions change how you viewed him?
11. Amber ultimately uses violence, effectively showing Tyler how it felt to suffer at the hands of someone you trusted to never hurt you. Afterward, Tyler does not blame Amber or think her response was disproportionate. Do you agree that her violent action was justified?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. In May 2016, the website xoJane published an essay by a rape survivor who physically attacked her rapist: www.xojane.com/issues/i-got-revenge-on-my-rapist. In it, she says, “Five years after avenging myself, I stand by my decision to attack my rapist. Beyond giving victims their power back, actions like mine serve as warnings to former, current, and future rapists. People like [my rapist] believe they can get away with assault because our legal system has imposed a culture of silence around sexual violence.” As a group, consider this excerpt or read the full essay. Discuss whether you feel differently in real life about a victim taking an action the way Amber did in the novel. Are there other ways to avoid the concerns about the legal process described by Amber and her therapist and still get justice? (pages 217–219)
2. As a creative writing exercise, imagine Amber and Tyler meeting again after five years. Write the scene as you think it would play out, considering any or all of these questions: Where are they now in their lives? Did Amber ever rekindle her romance with Daniel? What impact did Tyler’s requisite treatment have on him? Have they spoken at all in the past five years? Do they feel safe in each other’s presence? Share your stories with your book club and discuss.
3. Consider volunteering or donating to a local or national sexual assault hotline as a group. To search for organizations in your area, learn more about laws and current advocacy efforts in your state, or read survivors’ stories, check out www.rainn.org.
4. Visit Amy Hatvany’s website at http://www.amyhatvany.com to learn more about her and her books, and consider reading another of her compelling, emotionally driven novels as a group.
- Publisher: Washington Square Press (March 6, 2018)
- Length: 320 pages
- ISBN13: 9781501153907
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Raves and Reviews
Praise for It Happens All the Time:
"Spellbinding, timely, and unflinchingly honest. This novel will consume you."
– Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Missing Pieces
“This compelling, emotional novel reads like the complex truth behind the headlines. It Happens All the Time is a full throttle story with heart."
– Deb Caletti, National Book Award finalist
“Bravely sheds light on sexual assault and consent. In alternating perspectives friends Tyler and Amber recount an alcohol-fueled night that changed the course of their lives.”
– US Weekly
“At the heart of this moving novel are characters so vivid and tragically real, you can’t help but understand them as they self-sabotage, even in unforgiveable ways. It Happens All the Time is an important exercise in empathy and an unflinchingly honest look at the impact of all too common traumas.”
– Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author
“Pulling from her personal experiences, Amy Hatvany uses her novel to bring the raw wounds of sexual assault to light. It Happens All the Time will consume you, drawing you into the very real plight of the main characters and leaving you hoping for a better future for us all.”
“Compelling… a must read for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”
"Hatvany (Somewhere Out There) takes a risk with this disturbing study of the sexual and power dynamics of friendship and love...[she] keeps the pace fast, slickly layering her two complicated characters...Thanks to Hatvany’s powerful storytelling, there is a richness in these conflicted characters that makes changes of head and heart seem both unpredictable and possible."
– Publishers Weekly
"Bravely told and intoxicatingly honest, It Happens All The Time is a compulsory read for men and women—it bravely and urgently explores the meaning of consent everyone desperately needs to understand."
“Hatvany tackles an important, and timely, subject…this title will be appreciated by fans of Jodi Picoult or Diane Chamberlain.”
– Library Journal
“It Happens All the Time delves into the issues of friendship, power dynamics, and consent. With nuance and compassion for her characters, Hatvany reveals the fallout of the ultimate betrayal of trust.”
– Kirkus Reviews
"The nobility of this novel lies in its painful honesty as it wrestles with exactly what consent means. And while there’s a heavy issue at play, Hatvany still manages to turn in a page-turner that’s impossible to put down."
– Globe and Mail
“A raw and emotional journey about the shattering impact of sexual assault with the added confusion of the assailant being a loved one. This novel gets to the heart of the deeply pertinent issue of consent…[it] captivates from start to finish and plants a bug of reflection in the mind.”
– RT Book Reviews
Praise for Somewhere Out There:
"It's no secret that Amy Hatvany is a master of creating compelling, beautiful, flawed characters. This time around, Hatvany has reached new levels of aching honesty and brilliant empathy. A daring, compassionate, and deeply human story, Somewhere Out There is Hatvany at her very best. The women of this book will open your mind, break your heart, and stay with you long after you've turned the last page."
– Taylor Jenkins Reid, Author of Maybe in Another Life
"Gripping and emotionally honest."
– Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times bestselling author
“Hatvany brings readers a riveting, controversial story of how impactful our childhood experiences are in defining us as adults.”
“Hatvany deals with topics a lot of us are too afraid to discuss. This will definitely get conversations going.”
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- Book Cover Image (jpg): It Happens All the Time Trade Paperback 9781501153907
- Author Photo (jpg): Amy Hatvany Photograph by Allison Zenner(0.1 MB)
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