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Making a List

March 11, 2016

 

You've definitely watched one yourself:  a YouTube video of someone behaving badly or crazily or drunkenly or brattily.  We've all done it.  Remember Britney Spears's shaved-head breakdown?  Of course you do.  Remember Alec Baldwin cursing at his teenaged daughter in a voicemail?  Absolutely.  Now that our lives are nearly constantly monitored by video and sound recording, our best and worst moments can be recorded, edited, and broadcast for the world to watch.  

 

That's what happens to Mara, the protagonist of Kim Culbertson's The Possibility of Now.  During a particularly stressful calculus exam, she loses her cool and shreds not only her own test but several of her classmates'.  Someone records her meltdown on their cellphone and uploads the video to YouTube.  Suddenly, thousands of people have seen Mara at her worst...and she needs time to recouperate.  

 

The Possibility of Now is about Mara's attempt to live a less stressful, carefully scheduled life.  She's only 16 but feels the extreme pressure of a high-powered executive.  Her driven mother wants her to always do her best.  Her competitive school expects perfection.  And Mara expects all of this and more from herself.  So, she cuts out of San Diego and heads to Lake Tahoe where her "biological father" Trick McHale (a former ski champion) lives.  As part of her recovery, Mara makes a list of ways to live in the now:  "Learn to Ski" and "Sleep in past 8am on a school day."  What she finds, though, is that living isn't conducive to making lists and working yourself ragged on calculus and AP History.  Instead, she begins to discover more balance.

 

What I think is most compelling about this novel is the absolutely realistic and relaxed teen voice.  It's spot-on correct and all of the references and conversations feel exactly right.  Sometimes, YA tends to float into a sort of generic "teen" voice, but that never happens here.  Mara and her friends are living, breathing teens who are facing a variety of choices and each one deals with it in his or her own way.  When Mara is faced, for the first time, with a variety of possibilities for her own life, she begins to understand what it means to make choices for herself (rather than simply doing the next thing that is expected of her).  I think that's such an important message for teens.  At some point, we all get caught up in a cycle (at school, at work, at home) because it's easier to just keep going than to examine what actually makes you happy.  It's especially true for kids who are planning to attend college.  That there might be more to life than just studying is probably something that some kids really need to consider.

 

I enjoyed this book.  The romance was pretty tame.  The friendships were very real.  Mara's voice was exceptionally realistic.  It was also kind of fun to imagine spending a few weeks unplugging and learning something new.  In Mara's case, it's skiing.  I mean, how fun!

 

If you enjoyed any of these titles, you will probably love The Possibility of Now:

 

 

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

 

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

 

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

 

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

 

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

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