Monday, March 12, 2018

Blog Tour: A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers

Publish date: Mar. 13, 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Available in Canada through Thomas Allen & Son
Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from publisher for honest review and participation in blog tour

Goodreads Synopsis:

The story of a girl who—thanks to her friends, her famous dad, and a chance 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, that the boy she just met will be her new best friend, that the photographers chasing her actor father won’t force Nat and her dad to move again. Most of all, Nat dreams of the possibility that her faraway mother misses and loves Nat—and is waiting for Nat to find her.
The thing is, Nat doesn’t even know who her mother is. She left 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.
In this heartfelt story about family, friendship, and growing up, Nat’s questions lead her on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever.

My Review:

Nat has to move around a lot due to her larger than life famous dad, XAN. So she knows that making deep rooted friendships isn't worth the heartache in the end. But when they move to Canada and a chance encounter in the girls bathroom leads to meeting Harry, things turn out to be more complicated than she expected. Nat feels a connection to Harry that she hasn't felt since her BFF Solly in her last hometown, but things are different for Harry, who was actually born Harriet. He's struggling with his parents not accepting that he identifies as a boy, and feels like he'd be better off hanging out with the guys at school then with Nat. Nat doesn't care about any of that, she just wants to be friends with him and share her excitement about the whales that she can see at the beach by her trailer. (Her middle name is Baleine after all).

There is so much to be taken from A Possibility of Whales and I loved every part. Xan (a famous, single dad) had such a great relationship and playful banter with Nat. I enjoyed seeing the single dad take on the role of single-parenting a young girl. We see acceptance and diverse characters and friendship in the strangest of places (Bird). This is definitely and book that young and old alike should read. Part of me wishes that Harrys story came through a little more than it did as I really liked him and wanted more, but I understand this was Nats story!

I loved Karen Rivers writing too, I felt as though I could see the whales she was describing when Nat saw them. There was an ease to the writing and reading. I hope you all get a chance to read it (read to the very end of this post!) and I hope you share with someone who could use a read like this one!  


Question - There's a lot of words in different languages (Japanese, German) in your book, did you have  to research this beforehand or were they words you knew before? If so, how / why?
Answer - I’ve always been a collector of words. A long time ago, at an estate sale, I picked up a dictionary, which was a collection of words that don’t exist in English.  It had never occurred to me before then just how much language shapes and validates feelings and emotions. By not having words for certain things, they almost don’t exist.  For example, the Japanese have a word for the beauty of aging, imperfection, transience (wabi-sabi) and I think the fact that English is missing such a word is a reflection of how much we cling on to youth as our standard of “beauty”.   I love the depth that these non-existent-in-English words bring. So to answer your question, a lot of the words were words I already knew, but I definitely made use of the Internet to find ones that were unfamiliar to me that fit with Nat’s life, that described things she was experiencing that English lacks the words for.     

Q - Did you feel like this book needed to be written now, more so than ever with the LGBTQ+ community so strong (and becoming stronger) or was this a book you knew you would write regardless?
A - I did not set out to write a book about the LGBTQ community.  I set out to write a book about the complications of puberty in 2018 vs. puberty in 1970 (when ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET came out).  ARE YOU THERE GOD is still a quintessential coming-of-age, puberty book, but it’s very much a cis-gender story; it leaves too many people out. I wanted to write this as both a nod to that book, which meant so much to me when I was 12, and an exploration of how things are also so very different now.  Margaret’s family was “controversial” because her parents were of different religious faiths, but in hindsight, her family looks extremely traditional. Nat has a single dad, who is also famous, a very non-traditional structure. Harry has a more traditional family, but he has to fight for their acceptance of who he is.  At its heart, this is a book about relationships, about acceptance, about self-discovery. So to answer your question, I would have written it regardless. It’s interesting to me that Harry’s story, which is a secondary thread in the book, is the one that I’m getting the most questions about! I love Harry, I’m happy he’s getting the attention, but it also speaks to the fact that there is such a dearth of books for middle grade audiences that feature trans characters at all.   

Q - A Possibility of Whales is a coming-of-age novel, dealing with things such as feelings, love, and becoming a woman. As a woman yourself, you would have dealt with all of this already, why relive it in a novel?
A - When I was growing up, I never really felt okay in my own skin.  I was always an outsider, an observer, one-step removed from what was going on around me.  I want to write books for kids who are like I was, kids who are saying, “Am I okay? I don’t think I’m okay.”  I want to tell them, “You ARE okay. You will be. You are going to be just fine, better than fine. You’re great.  Things will get better and easier.” No one thinks they are “normal” in middle-school. Some people are outwardly different, a lot of people feel inwardly different.  Puberty throws yet another wrench into the whole mix. I write everything I write to say, “I see you. You’ve got this.”

Q - How did you come up with the idea of this book? What were your inspirations?
A - I’m a single parent myself, and my son is 12.  I know firsthand the complications of puberty in a single-parent family when that parent is a different gender than you are.  I was thinking about that, and about ARE YOU THERE GOD ITS ME MARGARET, and how I wanted to take on something similar, but I’d give my “Margaret” a single dad.  It blossomed from there, but I think it’s fair to say that was the seed.

Q - What do you hope kids (or adults) reading A Possibility of Whales will take from it?  
A - I hope they fall in love with it.  This book was a joy to write and I love the characters so much that I want everyone to see them, to love them, to care about them and their journey.   

Q - Why whales? Are they your favourite animal? Is there a deeper / more powerful meaning behind the whales?  (By the way, I love Natalia's middle name!)
A - Whales are very meaningful to me and always have been.   I’m drawn to them, fascinated by them, mystified by them.   They are incredible. In some First Nations’ traditions, the orca symbolizes family, which I love. I have always see whales as harbingers of good things, of luck and love, of connections.   They are our connection to the sea. We are all bound together on this planet.
Q - If you had to describe A Possibility of Whales in one sentence, what would it be?
A - I’d say it was ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET for the new generation, with The Rock playing a supporting role.  ☺

Q - Have you googled yourself?
A - Of course!  I don’t always recommend it.  While it can be wonderful and validating and magical to find comments that kids have left about the books, some of the adult comments can be crushing and demoralizing.   Proceed with caution. This is a job where we lay our souls open; we give away our hearts. When you are writing with everything you have, non-constructive criticism can be more painful than you’d think.

Q - What is your super power?
A - Being able to pretend that awkward things didn’t happen.  (Coincidentally, that is also the superpower of the main character in my upcoming YA, YOU ARE THE EVERYTHING.)  

Q - E-books or physical copies?
A - I love e-books.  I travel often enough that having an e-reader has changed my life.  No longer am I hauling 50 pounds of books in my suitcase! I love to read, I’m not fussy about the way the words finds their way into my life.

Q - When you aren't writing, what are you doing?
A - I teach writing at the university in my home town for half the year but I’m mostly ALWAYS writing. I spend a good portion of time taking long walks in the woods, which is also “writing”.  It’s how I work out the details, by stepping away from the keyboard, by simmering the ideas. I’m also a single mum, so I’m hanging out with my kids, who are 10 and 12.

Q - Favourite book of all time?
A - Too hard!  Middle grade?  When I was a kid, I was devoted to A WRINKLE IN TIME.   Now I’d put Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo on the top of my list, anything they write, I will read and love and be amazed by. Tracey Baptiste’s Jumbies books are so magical and compelling.  Kate Messner’s Exact Location of Home was a favourite this year. Ali Benjamin’s Truth About Jellyfish was my daughter’s favourite. Melanie Conklin’s Counting Thyme is lovely. Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together was one of my favourites.  I’m blown away by the incredible wealth of middle grade books coming down the pipe. Oh, Laurel Snyder’s Orphan Island! I wish these books had all existed when I was a kid.

Q - Chocolate or Candy?
A - Chocolate.  But also gummy bears, they are my revision candy.
Q - Read the book first, or watch the movie first?
A - Always the book.  I almost never see the movie.

Get Your Copy Today!

About Karen Rivers:
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.

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Tourwide Giveaway

The winner will receive:
1 signed hardcover copy of A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers

- 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.

1 comment:

Lynda said...

What a great interview. I wish I had noticed this post earlier. I would love to read this book. Great review, great interview.

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