Title: What If
Author: Rebecca Donovan
Length: 333 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Cal Logan is shocked to see Nicole Bentley sitting across from him at a coffee shop thousands of miles from their hometown. After all, no one has seen or heard from her since they graduated over a year ago.
Except this girl isn’t Nicole.
She looks exactly like Cal’s shy childhood crush, but her name is Nyelle Preston and she has no idea who he is. This girl is impulsive and daring, her passion for life infectious. The complete opposite of Nicole. Cal finds himself utterly fascinated-and falling hard. But Nyelle is also extremely secretive. And the closer he comes to finding out what she’s hiding, the less he wants to know.
When the secrets from the past and present collide, one thing becomes clear: Nothing is what it seems.
This book is about second chances. Living life to the fullest. Being your true self.
The story is centered on a friendship between four kids – Nicole, Richelle, Rae and Cal. That friendship evolves over the years. New feelings develop. But one summer changes everything for the four as two of them pull away from the group, for very different reasons.
What I loved about this story was how it unfolded. When Cal meets Nyelle, there are a ton of questions with no quick answers. As the story progresses, I began to understand more and theorize why Nyelle is the way she is. I’ll admit, it took some time for me to put it all together, most of the time I was thinking:
Oh, is she . . .
Did she . . .
Wait, I think I know what’s going on . . .
Ooh, ooh, I know, I know.
I’m sure YaYa (our fellow reviewer) would roll her eyes at me. She probably will figure the book out at 10%. So I’m slow. Whatever.
But I loved how the author slowly reveals the answers thru flashbacks from multiple POVs. While the present story is only told from Cal’s POV, the past is told from all of the other friends, the most enlightening being from Richelle and Nicole.
Cal was an intriguing character. His aloof behavior around women cracked me up. Now if I was one of the women pursuing him or dating him, he’d frustrate the hell out of me. But as an innocent bi-standard, I was amused.
“I’m looking for the girl I’ll regret if I let her go.”
There clearly is something special about him to have two women fall in love with him, and multiple others eager to date him. He might not be the perfect boyfriend for everyone, but it was clear to me that he is the ultimate boy . . . friend. He’s loyal, caring, honest and open to anything, especially when it comes to Nyelle.
“Holding your hand. It makes me feel like there’s a butterfly beating in my chest. There’s something about it that helps me believe everything’s going to be okay.”
Speaking of Nyelle, she’s a bit of a mystery. As I mentioned earlier, it took me some time to figure out her story. She has so many layers to her, some shaped by others expectations, some shaped by a list, some shaped as her true self. While she’s a mess and probably trouble, I understood Cal’s willingness to let her have free reign.
There is so much I could say about the list that is created, but I don’t want to give it away. What I loved about the list was that taking a step outside your current persona and doing something unexpected. And that last box on the list . . . *sniffs*
When everything is fully revealed, it will break your heart. All the time lost by a promise. And once everything is out in the open, it took time to mend fences and repair relationships, which felt right and real. In the end, this story left me with one thought:
Is it so wrong to wait for your “what if”?
*An ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.