If Only by Adele Broadbent
Kayla's first real try at breaking the rules proves to be a bit of a disaster. She struggles with the pain of realising she has let down those close to her and the constant wondering what might have happened if only she had chosen differently.
But then that disaster means she meets a boy, she learns the truth, and she just might be able to save a life.
Family secrets once again come to the fore in this new novel from Napier author Adele Broadbent.
If Only is overwhelmingly a romance story. But romance in the broadest sense of the word. Written in support of the work of Project Jonah, this is a tale of love - the love of an Aunty, a friend, a boy, and of the whales that brought them all together.
Marketed as being suitable for readers aged 12-years-old and up, Kayla is a believable and relatable young teenager. There are times when adult readers will roll their eyes at her dramatics, but at the same time will nod their heads and recognise their past selves. She is uncertain and impulsive, but also loyal and a thinker too. She is simply trying to navigate life and her struggles and triumphs are realistic and well balanced.
Broadbent has also been sure to include the old chestnut of parental expectations and trust. It is nicely resolved and worked through, although it did feel a little cliche that saintly Alex had to step in to help.
This is a minor bug though, with Broadbent's authentic writing capturing the reader. The setting was spot on and I loved that she slipped plenty of tips for readers about saving whales into the story. This book will instantly appeal to any beach-loving Kiwi, which is pretty much all of us.
If Only will make a great 'stepping stone' for older readers moving away from middle-grade fiction and into the often darker world of young adult. There are slightly more grown up themes.
Free teacher notes will be available on the OneTree House website too, and I can see it being a useful resource in a high school.
Broadbent is a bookseller, reviewer, and also runs the whatbooknext.com website, designed for children and teenagers to use to find their next great read.
Her passion for literacy - especially the importance for children - is evident. If Only is a another great read from a talented New Zealand author.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell
OneTree House, RRP $24.00