This reading group guide for It Happens All the Time includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction
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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.