Skip to main content

A Possibility of Whales


A Possibility of Whales

Karen Rivers explores the complexities of life in her latest emotionally charged novel, A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES. Rivers has previously written books like LOVE, ISH, which received praise as a heartbreaking novel about family. Similarly, A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES explores identity, what it means to be a family and coming of age.

Nat is searching for many things: a new best friend, a whale and though she will not say it aloud, her mother. She desperately wants to return to being a child, when she was able to imagine who her “perfect” mother could be, and her father was simply her dad, and not XAN GALLAGHER, the actor whose loud and boisterous personality draws attention --- and the paparazzi--- wherever he goes.

"A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES follows a smooth, train-of-thought style that allows….the characters to seem more real, and heightens tensions as past ghosts are revealed."

In their new, quiet home in Canada, Nat hopes to find a kindred spirit in Harry. Harry, named Harriet at birth, cannot get his father to accept that he is transgender. However, Harry has a strict list and plan for a good year; and Nat does not fit in it. But Nat knows she is not completely alone; she has her secret friend, an almost surrogate mother whom she calls “the Bird.”

The Bird offers Nat an experience that was denied to her when he mother left. But can Nat continue to live in limbo, not knowing who her mother is, trying not to grow up? From Nat’s search for a friend to complete her, to her yearning for her mother, Karen Rivers’s story explores the complexities of human relationships as seen through the eyes of pre-teen. Using words from different languages to describe her complicated feelings, Nat searches for stability in her life, whether it is from others or from within herself. To gain that, though, Nat must reconcile with her past, accept her present problems and be ready to move on to the future.

Told primarily through the eyes of 12-year old Nat, the narration of A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES follows a smooth, train-of-thought style that allows the reader to understand what Nat is thinking and feeling, without giving everything away right from the beginning. While this point-of-view may be confusing sometimes, it allows the characters to seem more real, and heightens tensions as past ghosts are revealed. Nat’s perspective is consistent with that of a child going through adolescence. While the story plot may be slightly unbelievable, and transitions slightly abrupt, Rivers includes true-to-life subjects and themes that do not gloss over any of the awkward questions that preteens face. In this way, the novel is written for younger readers, but has content that may be better suited for an older audience.

Rivers focuses the plot around Nat; other characters and antagonists chiefly exist for Nat to compare her beliefs to others and determine what she wants most out of her life. While most relationships in the story are explored and grown, the promising relationship between Harry and Nat remained relatively the same until the end. However, the sweet moments between Nat and the Bird are wonderful highlights in the novel and strengthen the growth of Nat overall.

With a dominate theme about the importance of relationships, especially between children and parents, A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES is a reminder of the integral fabric that supports individuals, especially children. The emotional tone reminiscent of every coming-of-age story makes A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES good for older preteens or younger teens. As it is a fast read, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a relaxing read.

Reviewed by Lauren C., Teen Board Member on March 27, 2018

A Possibility of Whales
by Karen Rivers