It Happened on Saturday by Sydney Dunlap- Review

Thank you to TBR & Beyond and Net Galley for the E-ARC.

About the Book

Genre: Middle-Grade Contemporary
Publishing date: February 21st, 2023

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Thirteen-year-old Julia would much rather work with horses at the rescue barn than worry about things like dating and makeup. But when her BFF meets a boy at camp, Julia’s determined not to get left behind. After a makeover from her older sister, she posts a picture of herself online and gets a comment from Tyler—a seemingly nice kid who lives across town. As they DM more and more, Julia’s sure that Tyler understands her in a way her family never has. Even better, their relationship earns her tons of attention at school.

Then Julia finds out Tyler’s true plan, and her world is turned upside down. She fiercely guards her secret, but could her silence allow her friends to fall into the same trap?

In this timely, heartfelt debut, author Sydney Dunlap tells a story of a middle-school girl who narrowly escapes becoming a victim of human trafficking and must find her way toward hope and healing after this traumatic event.


Rating-4 stars 


Even when reading a Middle-Grade Novel, I still try to find characters that I enjoy reading about. It Happened on Saturday had Julia, a lovely main character, who was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed reading her story. Julia loved horses, and working at the barn, as someone who also loves horses, I loved seeing horses play an element in the story. Nori, Maria, Gabi, and Chloe were fantastic friends to Julia, who had interesting stories of their own to tell. I enjoyed Julia’s family as well because they supported Julia in her love of horses, and they saw how much she loved them. After the events in this book, Julia’s friends and family wanted to help her bounce back, and get better. I just loved how much they all cared for her. 


It Happened On Saturday follows Julia as she learns the lessons of social media, and what can happen when you talk to strangers online. Sex Trafficking is a subplot of this story, and I feel that readers should know that before they read. This was a story of friendship, finding out who your friends are, and repairing friendships with those close to you. Julia kept things from her friends and family when she was meeting with Tyler, and she also learned the lesson that you need to tell your friends and family where you’re going in case something goes wrong. A support group helps Julia heal, along with her friends and family, and I loved the support group element of this. 


Sydney Dunlap tells a very important story with It Happened On Saturday. With a book like this, you need to handle the topics in a way that young readers will understand, but there also needs to be a way that you can teach them the lessons they need to learn, especially when it comes to social media. There were some fun scenes in this book, and these had a light-hearted tone, where you could see the characters were having fun, and enjoying themselves. Given the content, there were also some very intense and serious scenes in this book. They talked these topics about with care, and in a way that readers of any age can enjoy the story and learn something. 


I talked about it in the characters section, but I loved the friendships in this book. It would have been very easy for Julia’s friends to judge her for talking to Tyler, and they might have talked to her parents about it, which wasn’t what Julia wanted. Once Julia tells them what happened,  her friends were supportive, and offered an ear if Julia needed it, but also a way to take her mind off of the situation. Chloe was a friend when Julia needed one in her support group to recover. 

Recommended for & Enjoyment 

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a Middle-Grade novel with a lot of heart, and one that tackles tough topics. I really enjoyed reading this story. It was hard to read in some places, but I thought it was an important story. 

About the Author

Sydney Dunlap is a former elementary school teacher who has worked with at-risk youth in a variety of settings, and she enjoys reading and writing heartfelt, hopeful fiction that expands young readers’ awareness of tough topics. She is a published poet and has also written for a newspaper. A lifelong animal lover, Sydney lives with her family in a home where the dogs and cats outnumber the people.

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