How It Happened
A thrilling debut about friendship and betrayal
In his first children’s novel, playwright Herman van de Wijdeven presents a touching portrait of a boyhood friendship, which comes under pressure when a newcomer arrives on the scene.
It’s late summer and there’s thunder in the sultry air, and that’s just how Ben’s head has felt too, ever since his new classmate, Finn, has forced his way in between Ben and his best friend, Yuri. Finn smells of wet dog and has a high-pitched voice like a girl. Ben doesn’t understand why his friend’s being so nice to him. No words are wasted on his jealousy, but his resentment grows. The atmosphere within these short sentences is electric.
In his children’s debut, Zoals het gebeurd is (How It Happened), Herman van de Wijdeven takes the reader on a journey through the thoughts of eleven-year-old Ben. One single event has upset everything about his young life that seemed so safe and under control. Flashbacks gradually reveal to the reader exactly what has happened. Van de Wijdeven composes his tense tale like a thriller; by delivering the information in careful doses, he builds up the suspense and reconstructs the drama.
He beautifully sketches the friendship between Ben and Yuri before Finn comes on the scene, capturing the friendship, the tough-guy attitude, and the testing of each other’s limits, which leads Ben to the discovery that he and Yuri can actually quantify their daring: together, they are twice as brave as they are alone. It turns into a game that they play all summer long. “Do you dare to…?” – that’s how it always starts. They have the greatest fun together, but they have no idea how serious the game will become within just a few weeks.
Without psychologizing, Van de Wijdeveen loads his words with meaning, the way Bart Moeyaert can, or Niccolò Ammaniti – confident, impressive. A reviewer rightly noted: “One of those rare debuts that truly make you look out for new work by the author.”