A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers

A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers review cover

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A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers Summary


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. (description from NetGalley)



A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers review cover



Before reading A 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?


A 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.


 A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers pin


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