A Possibility of Whales

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

This story reminds us that sometimes what we hope for is closer than we think. My students loves this story!
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Karen Rivers has a way of being able to rip my heart and at the same time stitch it back together with delicate storytelling strands. This is the heart-breaking story of a girl searching for the mother she never knew and learning that life is messy and difficult for everyone.
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The narrative is somewhat scattered. This lack of cohesion means that it can be hard to pin down what we're meant to take away from the plot. While there are a number of interesting events and elements nothing takes center stage. We see the pressures of fame, changing friendships and puberty, and the importance of identity. It's just never presented in a cohesive package. And the finals scenes are almost entirely divorced from reality.
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Natalia's life is a bit odd.  She is the daughter of a famous actor (think "The Rock") but she doesn't know who her mother is.  They have recently moved to Canada to get away from the paparazzi due to an incident in San Francisco.  Natalia still writes to her friend there but it is complicated because her friend was the reason they left.  She also still talks to "The Bird" - a woman she randomly called on a phone she found and now talks to regularly.  In Canada, Natalia meets Harry.  Harry is going through his own stuff.  He was born Harriet and his parents are struggling with accepting him as Harry.  In the midst of it all Natalia is trying to figure out life, friends, puberty, and changes in general.
This was a decent book - some humor, some angst.  I thought there was a bit much that coincidentally happened around the same time.  Kids won't mind as much as I did.  Not sure yet how I am feeling about this overall - I think it needs to sit with me a bit more.
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I just didn't feel a connection with this book. I didn't really understand why Nat did the things she did--why was she best friends with people who didn't really seem to be good friends? And it seemed to meander a bit, with Nat's thoughts and the flashbacks. Nat's relationship with her dad was fun to read, but otherwise I didn't really enjoy it.
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This is a clear-cut case of being suckered in by a cute cover. Twelve-year-old Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher is the daughter of a wildly famous actor. So famous, in fact, that the pair are constantly forced to move each time paparazzi track down their address. Now in a tiny town in Canada, Nat is hopeful and looking forward to the new school year – and she intends to be best friends with a transgender boy in her class.

Ugh. I hated this one. I know I’m in the minority and that’s okay, but ugh. The two lone highlights – a character named Bird and the inclusion of a transgender character – couldn’t save this one for me. In the book’s summary, there’s an entire paragraph dedicated to Nat’s mom. How she abandoned Nat after she was born, how Nat’s father doesn’t talk about her, how Nat wants answers. It seems all the other characters know who Natalia’s mother is, but whenever anyone goes to spill the beans, she covers her ears and refuses to listen. I’m surprised she hadn’t already learned her mom’s identity – especially given how famous her dad is: he hasn’t done any major movies since Nat was born, yet he’s still making headlines. I expected to, you know, get answers, and, instead, got nothing. For such a huge part of the story, the book never address why her mother left, and I was painfully disappointed. Also, I think this was meant to be cutesy (and if I was the book’s target audience I might have been more on board with it), but every. single. time. her father is mentioned, his name is written in all caps. Every time. It got old real fast.
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At times the story seemed to be more about Harry’s transgender topic and his emotions over his father coming to terms with Harry’s decision.  Nat has her own coming of age as she grows into puberty, her old best friend uses her, and she tries to fit her new best friend Harry itnp her nomadic lifestyle.   I enjoyed the story and felt it wrapped up well.  Nat’s decision about her mother suits her well.  Tween girls who like friendship and realistic fiction story will enjoy this book.
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Karen Rivers has given us a good book for middle age up readers. I got a surprise when I started reading this book. Nat is 12 and has a friend in class that came out from most but the parents. Nat is the daughter of Xan Gallagher, who is the famous actor! Nat has no mother and it hurts her. Xan tries to keep her happy. They move around due to his acting. So Xan takes her friend, Harry, and his parents with the next moves. Nat and Harry go whale watching. They get the cameras to chase them. They get to get a trip in water for whales. This is a surprise! There is a lot of action, yelling and crying. This shows me of my past 63! I like this book. Choose your book! Don't let it get away! You may need tissues beside you! Enjoy!
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I had a hard time with this book. From the very beginning, I struggled to connect with Nat. There was nothing about her that really drew me in, and her father (or lack thereof) drove me insane. The idea that she talks to random stranger on a burner phone is creepy, too. There are beautiful moments — when Nat stumbles upon the Orcas, for example — but not enough to really pull me in. Karen Rivers has a smooth writing style that's warm and inviting (my reason for 3 stars), however this was not a story that I wanted to keep reading. I did not finish.
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For me, this book was really about people attempting to define their world. The main character, Natalia, or Nat, is trying to figure out what it means to be a daughter to a famous Dad (a character that is, I believe, hilariously modeled after Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and then developed into a caricature - which was good comic relief for a story that is somewhat serious), what it means to not know your mother, and what it means to have a mother-like figure. 
Other characters struggle with gender identity, and their family members struggle with that as well. How does one deal with having a transgendered child? These characters are far from perfect and make many mistakes in how they try to construct their world and this is part of the story as well. 
Whether it was the sweet, and funny relationship between Nat and her father, or the contrariness of Nat's friend Harry's relationship with his Dad, a book that examines today's changing nature of the friendship and family could be an important read for the young person that needs it. This book tackles some serious subjects, but also has some comic relief. The plot and characters are not always tidy and it won't be a super comfortable read for many young people. Personally, I like that kind of book, but, of course, not everyone does.
While this book could be used in elementary schools, it does have some content that suits mature readers.
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As the daughter of a famous but eccentric star, Nat has learned how to start school in a new place, and she thought she knew how to find just the right person to be her friend, but a huge betrayal has left her stressed. Nat and her dad have moved to a small town in Canada, near a beach where Nat waits for whales to surface. At school though, Nat struggles to find the right friend. Nat just knows that Harry could be her best friend, but Harry only wants to be around boys, so Nat has to try out her other options - the nerdy but closed off girls, or the popular crowd. Nat's possibilities threaten to overwhelm her.
The book is a bit meandering but interesting and intelligent. I like that the transgender kid is seen as perfectly normal by Nat!
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Another great middle-grade novel. As Nat often says, life is complicated. A Possibility of Whales is about two soon-to-be teens growing up with their own unique problems, as well as the ones everyone must learn to deal with. Nat, the daughter of a famous actor father and a non-existent mom, must navigate the world while she continuously moves and deals with the paparazzi following her and her father. Harry is a transgender boy whose family isn't the most accepting. The two form a pretty quick bond of being different and a love of whales. 

This was such a nice book. While Nat's inner voice seems a bit grown for a person her age, overall I thought the characters were very realistic for children their age. Other young middle schoolers will be able to relate to the struggles of being different, even if their situations are not those of Nat and Harry. There are a few moments towards the end of the book that made me go, "is this really happening?" but it didn't negatively impact my view of the story. Nat and the reader both have many questions about her life. Not all of them get answered with a neat, tied-with-a-bow ending and I think it really added something here. After all, this is just a snippet of a young girl's life. She won't have all the answers at this age, probably not ever, so following along her journey feels genuine. Thanks to NetGalley for the eArc.
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Before reading The Possibility of Whales, I had just come off another Karen Rivers book, All That Was. ATW was written for an older audience, but the author’s ability to write winding, authentic inner monologues really shines through in both novels. Am I the only one who finds it much easier to relate to a character when it feels like they’re thinking real thoughts? 

The Possibility of Whales is Oscar-movie poignant. From the moment Nat makes her very first phone call to the Bird, I knew I was in for some heart-squeezing: 

“I get it,” said the Bird. “If you don’t know my name, I can be anyone. I think maybe that’s just fine. I like the idea of being anyone. I think a lot about being someone else, sometimes. I look at people and I think, Why am I me and why are you you? Do you ever do that?”

I really enjoyed the characters. Nat and Harry were both appropriately immature for their age and life experiences, and Nat’s father was charming and silly. Harry, though, was the better of the two perspectives, in my opinion: 

Lists put things in order and made him feel like he had a handle on things, but he didn’t actually have a handle on anything at all except for pretty much every Mario game ever. Maybe he’d have a handle on everything else the next day. Maybe nothing would be itchy. Probably not, though. 

The plot, like the inner monologue, winds. Somehow, Nat’s father takes her, Harry, and Harry’s parents to Mexico. I mean, I get it – he’s rich. But why did we need to go all the way from Canada to Mexico? {The answer is whales. Whales are present and a recurring metaphor.} But the funny thing is, I didn’t really mind it. It was worth it to have some light-hearted discussions about gender.

Because really, that’s why I picked up this book in the first place. I’m always looking for more middle grade novels that present a transgender protagonist. Harry is trying to assert his identity in a way that is so perfectly preteen, but also as a young transgender adult. He struggles with his parents who see this as a “phase” and insist on calling him “Harriet.” He struggles with his relationship with classmates and with Nat. Still, this isn’t presented in a super angsty way; instead, the narrative is squishy and charming. I strongly recommend this for your classroom library.
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A unique narrator and writing style on the art of growing up. I will recommend this one to my kiddos.
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Nat's dad is famous. Super famous. Because of this, they move around to avoid the paparazzi and live in a tiny trailer where she can see orcas every day. She doesn't know her mom, but she meets a boy at her new school in Canada and they form a somewhat friendship. 

I'm...not really certain what to make of this book. The story is heartwarming, about a young girl dealing with some pretty emotional coming of age things (coupled with the whole, being famous because of her famous dad thing), and it has great LGBT rep with Harry, her best friend (woohoo, a trans boy!), but I just felt...underwhelmed. Nat is an incredibly introspective child, and it shows in the stream of consciousness narration. The writing is all over the place (much like a 12-year-old's mind would be) and the plot seems to meander. It's not plot-driven, but it also isn't what I would call character driven. 

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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This is an absolutely lovely story. Filled with quirky side characters, the main character is in a really unique and tough situation. Excellent handling of a girl's first period and the awkwardness of not having a mom around. Also good handling of realizing when a friendship maybe just needs to be over because the other person was never that good a friend.
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I read most of this and enjoyed it! Keep up the good work!
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E ARC from Edelweiss Plus



Natalia lives with her movie star father, XAN GALLAGHER, a larger than life force even though he hasn't had a hit movie since she was a baby. Her mother left when she was very young. Tired of the paparazzi following the two of them around, her father moves them frequently, and the latest stop is a trailer over looking the coast in Canada. Nat misses her friends from her old school, even if there were some problems with them, but she does make a friend, Harry, at her new school. The two get along famously, and Nat doesn't care at all that Harry started out life as a girl, which is good, since Harry's family isn't as supportive as he would like. Harry is a bit reluctant to hang out with Nat, because he feels that if he could hang out with some of the cool boys, life would be easier. Nat is enthralled with the whales that she can see from her home from time to time, and shares this excitement with Bird, a woman she occasionally talks to on a burner phone that she found at her previous house. Bird seems a bit lonely, and is glad to talk to Nat, who sort of pretends that Bird is a mother figure to her. When the paparazzi find Nat and her father, she knows that her time in Canada is limited, and tried to make the most of it. 

Strengths: This is a steady depiction of a transgender boy, and I appreciated that while Harry's father was not thrilled, the family was as accepting as they could be, and Harry's identity wasn't the whole point of the story. It's a tough balance, but Rivers has a nice touch with it. The issues of parental involvement and of a celebrity parent are also deftly handled. Rivers excels in hallucinatory scenes, but there is just a brief one in this book. 
Weakneses: The story line with Bird was a bit odd, and didn't add a lot to the story. I also wondered how long Nat could continue to use the burner phone, so it was also a bit hard to believe. 
What I really think: This put me in mind of Wilson's The Longest Whale Song. What is it about the lack of a mother and the connection to whales? Or Benjamin's The Thing About Jellyfish. Perhaps we need a more upbeat book involving the ocean!
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I love to find books that can be family read aloud books. Books that parents and kids can enjoy together and this fits the bill.
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A sweet and quirky coming-of-age novel with diverse and eccentric characters. Nat and her famous father move to a new town, where Nat longs for a good friend. She befriends a transgendered boy, Harry, and is on her own path of self-discovery, including her quest for information about her mother.

The novel made me chuckle out loud a few times, but it also took a few unbelievable turns that pushed me out of being fully immersed in the story. 

Aside from the prominent coming of age theme, there are strong themes of acceptance, family, friendship, and privacy. However, due to the storyline and content, this novel is best read privately, as opposed to a shared experience like a read aloud.

The target audience is a bit harder to pinpoint on this novel. I guesstimate the reading level at a middle grade level, but the coming-of-age themes put it more at an appropriate book for tweens. The main characters are 12, which targets readers slightly younger than that. All in all, likely a book best suited to a grade 5 or 6 classroom library or personal collection.
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