Thursday, March 15, 2018

BLOG TOUR: A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers

Title: A Possibility of Whales
Author: Karen Rivers
Genre: Middle Grade - Contemporary
Publisher: Thomas Allen & Son
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Acquired: Sent by publisher for review
Goodreads: ADD
Purchase: Amazon/Indigo

The story of a girl who—thanks to her friends, her famous single dad, and an unexpected encounter with a whale—learns the true meaning of family.

Twelve-year-old Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher loves possibilities: the possibility that she’ll see whales on the beach near her new home, the possibility that the trans­gender boy she just met will become her new best friend, the possibility that the paparazzi hounding her celebrity father won’t force them to move again. Most of all, Nat dreams of the possibility that her faraway mother misses her, loves her, and is just waiting for Nat to find her.

But how can Nat find her mother if she doesn’t even know who she is? She abandoned Nat as a baby, and Nat’s dad refuses to talk about it. Nat knows she shouldn’t need a mom, but she still feels like something is missing, and her questions lead her on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever.


The author of this novel is Canadian. This novel is SET in Canada. I'm not sure if you get where I'm going with this but my heart was already spilling over with giddy anticipation when I found out those two facts, and I hadn't even read the synopsis yet. A Possibility of Whales promised heartwarming moments of family, friendship and large marine mammals, and it delivered on all fronts.

Natalia Rose has moved, yet again, and this time to the land of polite and excessive "sorrys," and into an Airstream home that can barely fit one, let alone Natalia and her (literally) larger than life father and actor XAN GALLAGHER. But she knows the drill, and she is more than willing to start at her new school, and scope out prospects for a new BFF. All the while, Natalia's absent mother sits in her mind like a superglued daydream. Where is this mysterious woman who birthed her and abandoned her? How does she get closer to finding out who she really is...and when she does, will she be ready for the answer?

A Possibility of Whales was the stream-of-conscious narrative of a not-so-typical 12-year-old girl, coping as best she can in a world that many may envy, but very little know the struggles of. Karen Rivers dug deep into her own mind, or researched quite well, the seemingly thousands of crises a tween might face on a daily basis. Her writing was fluid and beautiful, and went places that I wasn't expecting but found to be both hilarious and entertaining. For example, Natalia is obsessed with foreign words, words that mean whole THOUGHTS in other languages, like the Hindi word "viraag", which means "the pain you feel when you are separated from someone you love". Natalia randomly throws out these words and their meanings thorughout the book, and I thought it was a spectaculary clever addition to the plot. And even MORE spectacular was the arrival of an LGBT character. I cannot even express how important it is, and will continue to be, to have this representation in a middle grade novel, and I want to meet Karen myself to shake her hand and thank her for giving us Harry.

At times Natalia lost me, at times I wish the storyline would stay more grounded and linear, but that would have taken away from the chaotic beauty that the author so clearly wanted to impose on her readers. I finished this novel feeling a little less confined to one place. I took Natalia's hand and I let her show me the worlds she's traveled, the emotional strain on her young heart, and the conclusion to a story, her story, that began with a whale, and ended just as big.

Read if you liked:  
Better Nate than Never by Tim Federle, 
any middle grade fiction by Holly Black. 

Key themes: 
family love, friendship, loss, acceptance, coming-of-age




Judy Blume is the grand dame of our industry, but how does Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret stand up? Why did I want to write another puberty book? How did it inspire me to write APOW?

ARE YOU THERE GOD came out in the same year that I was born, which was both not that long time ago and a very long time ago.  (Longer than I like to think!)  So much has changed in terms of products, for example.  But some things, of course, never change.   Kids go through puberty in much the same way:  Still (always) some of them can’t wait to get there while others are putting on the brakes and are afraid of the changes puberty brings.   In many ways, puberty brings to mind childbirth for me:  It’s something you can read about, understand from a biological perspective, and be technically prepared for, but until it happens, you can’t really know how it will feel for you.

ARE YOU THERE GOD became invaluable to so many girls because it provided some insight into those feelings, it made it okay to acknowledge that beyond the technicalities of menstruation, there were a lot of things that go hand in hand with puberty.  How do you know when you’re leaving childhood behind?   What’s it like when your body starts changing into a different shape?   Will it be scary?   Does everyone else know something that you don’t? 

I wanted to take on the task of writing a book where puberty featured, but wasn’t necessarily the main plot line, similarly to how ARE YOU THERE GOD’s major plot line had to do with Margaret’s relationship with God.  As such, APOW is largely about Nat’s relationship to her best friend Harry, her (absent) mother and her (present) father.  It’s about what she has, what she’s lost, and also about what she yearns for and who she is becoming.   

I wanted to make the book accessible for both boys and girls.   Why is it, I wonder, that as soon as menstruation is in a book, it becomes necessarily a “girl” book?  Wouldn’t it be nice if menstruation wasn’t an “ew, yuck” for boys, a secret that girls had to keep?

I made Nat’s best friend a boy, partly for that reason.   Here are a girl and a boy who are best friends, to whom something big and adventurous and scary happens, while simultaneously both are fighting battles to be seen, recognized for who they are, and to deal with the changes their bodies are undertaking.   Harry is a big part of Nat’s journey and the story anchors itself on their adventure in Mexico.  He happens also to be trans, so his journey has its own obstacles.

Is APOW a puberty book?   I don’t know that it is, necessarily. I think at its heart, APOW is a book about relationships and defining yourself. It’s about taking care of each other and about mothers and mothering, fathers and fathering, friends and being a friend.

I truly loved writing this book.   Every day I spent with it was a joy.   The characters of Nat and Harry and XAN GALLAGHER feel like people I met, people who I now know, people I was lucky to spend time with.  I hope audiences feel the same way. 


Karen Rivers’s books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usually be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, and two birds. Find her online at and on Twitter: @karenrivers.



The winner will receive: 

1 signed hardcover copy of A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers Details: 

- Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter) 
- Giveaway ends Mon. Mar. 19th @ 12AM EST 
- Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim their prize 



A huge thank-you to Vicky at Thomas Allen & Son for providing a paperback copy of this book for review.

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