In Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf, young women learn the power of speaking up

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf by Hayley Krischer. Image courtesy Penguin Random House
Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf by Hayley Krischer. Image courtesy Penguin Random House /

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is a story set in the present day, but its timelessness is as worrisome as it is empowering, especially for young adults.

Ali and Blythe don’t have much in common. Except for Sean Nessel.

To Blythe, Sean is the best friend she always wanted to be something more. To Ali, he’s the long-standing crush that finally did become more — for one unshakable night, at least.

High school is hard enough without dangerous secrets weighing you down, and that seemed to be an exclusive part of Blythe’s friend group until Ali and Sean collide. Blythe knows what Sean did to Ali is unforgivable. But he’s also her boyfriend’s best friend — and speaking out against him will likely turn the rest of her friends against her.

The right thing isn’t always the easy thing. But the right thing is so often the necessary thing.

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is a dark and twisted story with a powerful conclusion. Now more than ever, we need stories that shine bright spotlights on the worst things going on in our world while leaving us with hope that things can and will be better.

Hayley Krischer draws from her own experiences to craft a raw, essential narrative about the importance of speaking out against violence, harassment, and bullying of all kinds, even calling out the backlash that often comes with doing so. Both Ali and Blythe are torn apart publicly for speaking their truths thanks to the viral and sometimes poisonous nature of social media.

At points, this book feels like an overly exaggerated depiction of the pressures young girls face to earn acceptance and the sense of belonging they crave. But that’s exactly the point, and the very thing that makes the story work.

These things really do happen. This book is just one fictional example of real events that have happened to more women than we’ll ever know about. Blythe and Ali and their classmates are all high school teenagers, but this happens among those younger than them, and those older than them too.

The more we tell these stories — fictional retellings or otherwise — the more awareness we bring to issues related to #MeToo and the like. Especially to young adults who may have heard so many of these stories but don’t think it could ever happen to them.

I love how the book acknowledges that sexual violence often occurs between two people who know each other — even people who may genuinely be attracted to one another. Ali and Sean knew each other for years before he hurt her. Their encounter even started out consensual until it wasn’t, until that first “no” was ignored.

No matter how many of these stories you may have heard, and no matter how difficult it may be to hear another, books like this need to be read and talked about, at the very least to spark important conversations about consent and respect and what “belonging” truly means.

Ali, Blythe, and hopefully those reading learn the most important lesson of all: Speaking up is not the end of your journey. It’s not the worst thing that will ever happen to you. There will always be those who stand with you and believe you, and those are the only people who matter.

Next. All This Time is the captivating fairytale that will open your heart to love again. dark

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is available now wherever books are sold.