I can be a little sceptical about YA reads sometimes as I seem to identify better with more adult reads, but this standalone novel really hooked me from the start. It centres around 4 main characters (the only boy Cal and three girls Nicole, Richelle and Rae) that shared a childhood and for the most part grew up in a close friendship.
After high school, as their lives slowly move in different directions, Cal is shocked to see Nicole thousands of miles from their hometown after he lost contact after their graduation a year previously. However despite her appearance this girl is not Nicole.
Nyelle Preston flits into his life and she is impulsive and adventurous; quite different from the shy Nicole from his memories. Cal becomes fascinated by her and falls hopelessly for her, but exuberance aside, Nyelle is also troubled and secretive and it is only a matter of time before her own secrets come catching up with her.
I don’t really want to say anymore as I wouldn’t want to spoil the story but there are some many twists and turns and secrets to be uncovered that you really will be captivated. As there is quite a small cast of characters and with the dips in and out of the main four’s childhood, it is easy to get attached to them and really care about what happens.
I really liked the character of Cal, so that spurred me on to find out how things would go with him. I found Nyelle’s impulses quite strange and I didn’t always understand her at times (which I guess is the nature of her character) but her actions often provided some beautiful imagery so she definitely kept things colourful. The prose is easy to follow, even with the jumps back and forth in time.
As this is YA, things like sex and violent are watered-down/non-existent so if I could have added anything to this story it would have been that, although that would have changed the story quite significantly (just my humble opinion to suit my own tastes)!
There is romance in there, exploration of friendship and other quite deep human emotions that really make this a rollercoaster of a novel. What If is an accomplished novel about second chances from a well-established and popular YA author.