Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher's father, famous movie star Xan Gallagher, tells her, "We all contain multitudes.... Everyone isn't ever all one thing." The same could be said of A Possibility of Whales, a remarkable novel that encompasses more than the usual flotsam and jetsam of turning 13. Nat not only experiences her first period and secret crushes, but also aggressive paparazzi, tabloid secrets, a secret stolen cell phone, miraculous whale sightings, and the painful process of losing one best friend and finding another. At the heart of the novel lies the complex and sensitively drawn friendship between Nat and Harry, a transgender boy, as they both struggle to navigate middle school and the expectations of their families. Nat's witty and vulnerable voice drives the novel, from her wry observations about contemporary celebrity culture to the thoughtful collection of untranslatable words that help define her world. The chapters that center Harry's perspective are just as strong, emphasizing his desire to be seen and understood, not as an abstract exemplar of a transgender child but as an individual. The novel avoids offering simple solutions for questions of identity and adolescence, instead reveling in life's nuance and complexity. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Raymie Nightingale and Counting by Sevens, Rivers's latest work brings an improbable combination of elements together in an unforgettable story that is quirky and wise.-Molly Saunders, Homewood Public Library, AL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Celebrity is not without its drawbacks, and Natalia is discovering that age 12 is a particularly tough time to have a famous dad. Xan Gallagher is the sort of movie star that cannot escape the paparazzi, despite his best efforts, which has led to Xan and Nat moving roughly once per year. Their latest relocation has landed them in French Beach, Canada, which is fairly isolated and, best of all, in whale-watching territory. Rivers (Love, Ish, 2017) focuses her novel on the internal upheaval Nat experiences as a result of many things: the moves, not knowing who her mother is, falling out with her best friend, and the undesired onset of puberty complete with a highly embarrassing father-daughter talk. The story's secondary characters don't always ring true; Xan's goofiness is over the top, and Nat's friendship with Harry, a transgender boy in her class, can feel forced. Nevertheless, the honest depiction of Nat getting her first period and the complicated feelings that come with it make this book a worthwhile addition to library collections.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2018 Booklist
Kirkus Review
Rivers introduces two middle schoolers who could help each other: Natalia, the motherless, paparazzi-plagued daughter of a loving, famous actor, and Harry, a transgender classmate who's embracing his male identity in spite of his intolerant father's rejection of his true self.Natalia, new to Harry's small, Canadian community, and her earnest, ebullient father, Xan Gallagher, share an understanding of the boy's needs, but her classmates are more inclined toward ridicule. Unfortunately for Natalia, in an effort to find accepting male friends, Harry often pushes back against her yearning for a BFF. She needs one badly. Adolescence is sneaking up on her; it's not a change she welcomes, and she feels it's especially hard to navigate this complicated passage without the mother who apparently rejected her at birth. A scene in which she tries to select products for her firstunexpectedperiod in a supermarket is especially touching. Harry's situation is ultimately helped by Xan's intervention with Harry's mildly star-struck parents. The tale is told in alternating third-person voices, but Natalia's is far better captured than Harry's; his complex needs and emotions are never fully explored the way Natalia's are. In fact, Harry's predictable history of transphobic assault, forced use of the girls' bathroom, humiliation in front of his classmates, and constant deadnaming make him a collection of the pitiable tropes that are familiar to cis audiences but likely discouraging and alienating to trans readers. Harry, Natalia, and Xan all present as white.A tale that's half engaging but never effectively plumbs its full potential. (Fiction. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.