Review: What If by Rebecca Donovan - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Review: What If by Rebecca Donovan

My Thoughts

An intricately woven story about love and loss, friendships and heartache.



what if coverWhat if you had a second chance to meet someone for the first time?

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.

My Review

“What if I had done it differently? Who would I be? What would my life be like? What if…?”

From the author of the emotionally consuming Breathing series, comes a story that’s honest, vulnerable and almost intimate. A story that centers around the concept of ‘what if’What if a moment… a decision… a person… an action, could change the trajectory of your life? And what if fate gave you a second chance to recover someone you’ve lost and longed for?

This story follows the delicate fibers woven together between friends, as some come apart, while others entwine closer together over time. Love and loss, truths and untruths, fate’s fragility comes into focus as Cal Logan’s past and present collide, and he must finally face one night’s events years ago to decipher the mystery of a girl.

“Within the recesses of a faded memory, I can hear Nicole screaming. It was the last thing I heard before no one saw her again.”

Cal, Richelle, Rae and Nicole were the best of friends as children, growing up in the same neighborhood and sharing laughs during these early formative years. But even then, they could tell Nicole was different. She grew up under her father’s thumb, under the expectation of utter perfection.  Her real personality hid beneath the veneer of a scared little girl afraid to disappoint, except in those brief moments of freedom with her friends, particularly with Richelle. But when Richelle moved away years later, everything changed and the inseparable foursome drifted apart. Rae and Cal remained close and for Nicole, they ceased to exist as she joined the popular crowd and seemingly never looked back. After graduating, however, no one had seen or heard from her. She had vanished.

“I swear I’m staring at the face of Nicole Bentley, the girl I spent way too many hours of my life thinking about. But she’s looking at me like she has no idea who I am.”

During Cal’s sophomore year in college, he runs across a girl whose eyes are identical to Nicole’s. In fact, she looks exactly the same, while also entirely different. Whereas Nicole was shy, reserved, perfection… Nyelle was vibrant, intense, free-spirited. She was chaotic beauty with clothes that didn’t fit well and hair that was a mess and ideas that seemed carelessly crazy. And Nyelle didn’t know Cal. It couldn’t be Nicole… could it?

We journey into the past through alternating past/present narratives to get to know the dynamic between the friends and understand Cal’s true feelings for Nicole as we inch closer to a night that seemed to hold the key to understanding it all. One thing is for certain, however, the more time Cal spends with Nyelle, the more he begins to fall for her. Whoever she is… or isn’t.

“I can’t ignore the truth forever. I open my mouth to ask all the questions I still don’t have the answers to… But I can’t. She’s so happy. And I don’t want to be the one to extinguish that glint in her eye.”

So many secrets swirl around Nyelle, and Cal is torn between letting go of the past and living in the moment. Could he love a girl he doesn’t truly know? Would pressing for answers drive her away? Or would Nyelle finally let him in?

The story unfolds slowly, quietly, as the characters struggle with their own questions and doubts. There’s this raw, wonderful vulnerability that is entirely intriguing and introspective, particularly coming from a primarily male point-of-view. I felt the turmoil within Cal, the trepidation of ruining a good thing despite the incessant need to know the truth.

Rebecca Donovan does an amazing job of weaving a multifaceted and emotional story. It’s about living the life you choose for yourself, abandoning all pretense. It’s about choices and figuring out that sometimes we ought to fight for those we care about despite not always understanding what’s happening. It’s about friendships and love, and all the messy stuff in between. It’s about grabbing the what if moments in life and turning them into seize now moments. The messages are poignant, and the words strung together, deliberate. Readers should expect something vastly different from the Breathing series, but will enjoy the quiet, yet powerful reflection evoked by this novel.


About Rebecca

rebecca donovanOptimism seeps from every pore of my body. I truly believe that what’s supposed to happen… will! In that regard, I don’t know how to give up; it’s not part of my biological make up.

I’m a passionate (and some would say, overly enthusiastic) person. I learn by doing (and have been burned more times that I’d like to admit), but I will always throw my entire self into whatever I do – fail or succeed.

I think this is evident when I write, leaving nothing behind and spilling it all out on the pages. I give it all to my readers – love it or hate it.

The path I’m on is very often my own, veering off the beaten path at the sight of something more interesting or captivating, getting caught in the vines and thorns in order to experience the beauty and intrigue others often pass by. And I always meet the most interesting people along the way…

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