Release Day Blitz and Reviews: What If: Rebecca Donovan

by - Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What If
Rebecca DonovanAdd to Goodreads
Expected September 16, 2014

A new novel by the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Breathing Series . . . 

What 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.

Please also visit the special interactive website for WHAT IF and share your own "what if confession."

"I'm looking for the girl I'll regret if I let her go."
"Your what if girl. I like it."

For Cal Logan, Nicole Bentley was the girl who got away. He and his three friends Rae, Nicole, and Richelle were inseparable as kids. But he always had a bit of a crush on Nicole. But as they matured, Cal found himself hurt by those he cared about and then lost contact with some of them. But he never forgot them or the  hurt that was left in their wake.

But now Cal is in college and meets Nyelle Preston and thinks he has seen a ghost from his past. But even though she looks like Nicole, she acts differently, has a different style and personality, and does not show any recognition towards him. 

I was intrigued by the mystery and the plot. It was told in Cal's point of view with flashbacks in both Nicole and Richelle's points of view. So their pasts and the importance and intensity of their friendship and bonds was explored. And in the present Cal was trying to figure out answers to where Nicole went, who Nyelle was, and how the puzzle pieces all fit together. It was confusing, complicated, and bewildering. Nyelle and Nicole  had the same physical beauty and eyes, but were so different in every way.  And the situation was delicate and complicated for Cal to deal with.

She continues confuse me with every conversation we have. But this girl makes me happy. Frustrated too. But mostly happy. And so I'm going to enjoy every second I have with her."

I was a unique and interesting premise and it was fully developed with an intricate layered writing style, likable quirky characters and plot twists. I would think I figured out something, then something else would lead me to think otherwise. 

Nyelle was a challenging mystery. She was flighty, impulsive, passionate, and fascinating. She randomly appeared, disappeared, and reappeared in his daily life without plans or consistency. But for whatever reason, he was drawn to her like no one else since Nicole. and they shared a connection and chemistry that kept building. But she really confused him with her behavior and intermittent confessions.

"There are so many times I think about a decision I've made and wonder, 'What if I had done it differently? Who would I be? What would my life be like? What if...'"

I loved Cal throughout from awkward boy to handsome, charismatic young man.  He was so caring, thoughtful and loyal. He had a good heart that had been hurt so he learned to be guarded with women and not get too attached. He was lost and confused for much of the book, but he had such strong feelings and need to protect Nyelle even at his own expense. He had to walk a fine line between holding on and letting go. There was a lot of push and pull between them and Cal was terrified of making a wrong move. I enjoyed his relationship with his friend, Rae who was a firecracker and literal ray of sunshine. She was outspoken, tough, a bit wild with crazy style, but was fiercely protective of him.

The shared pasts of the four childhood friends are slowly revealed as the book goes on. We see the the delicate framework of the relationships between the four individuals and what transpired between them over a span of years. Richelle was the sweet, beautiful, vibrant girl who truly cared about people. Nicole was shy, sheltered, and groomed to be perfect. She longed to be herself and  not the perfect Princess, but her life was full of expectations and stress. Rae was the tomboy who played hard and was not afraid to speak her mind. And Cal was the boy who cared for all of them and protected them. But we see how they all grow and change over time. 

I was completely engaged and perplexed trying to figure out the Nicole/Nyelle connection. Was she? Wasn't she? If she was, then what happened? It was a completely compelling mystery that kept me guessing. I will admit one of several theories I had had did turn out to be correct. But I completely enjoyed the intriguing, complicated journey getting there. It was a delicately woven, poignant, emotional, thought provoking story with depth, mystery and humor. It kept me flipping pages, totally invested, and feeling so many things. There were lots of questions, but also answers, and  it all came together in the end.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

What If is one of those stories that is best read by jumping in with both feet and not knowing every little thing about it, which makes it difficult to review without spilling secrets, but I’m going to do my best to keep all the secrets! 

The story centers around Cal and three of his childhood friends -- Nicole, Richelle, and Rae, and Nyelle, a girl Cal meets at Crenshaw and is immediately intrigued by. Told through flashbacks, present day scenes, and alternating perspectives, it is written in such a way that even though there is a lot going on, and a lot of mystery, there are very deep threads connecting all the characters. 

The four friends were each so different that is was sometimes hard to reconcile that their friendship would continue through life. Nicole is quiet, and always perfectly put together and proper. Richelle is outgoing and confident. Rae is tough and a bit of a tomboy. Cal is the peacemaker, content to let the girls make most of the decisions (unless they want to play wedding...then he goes and finds the boys). And as life has a tendency to do, it does get in the way of their foursome. Richelle moves suddenly to San Francisco, Nicole becomes head of the popular girls, and Rae and Cal feel left behind and forgotten together. But what would happen in the meantime and following high school will ultimately ripple through all their lives. 

Cal was always the mediator growing up, the one boy hanging out with three girls. Now that he’s in college, he still looks back and wonders what happened to his close-nit group of friends. 

Nyelle is so carefree and full of life. She sweeps in to Cal’s life, reminding him so much of his childhood friend, Nicole, and yet she is so different that he can’t help think he is mistaken. She is impulsive, caring, and not worried about what anyone else thinks about what she wants. 

This is full of second chances and what if situations. The detail in the mystery surrounding what happened and what brought each of the characters to their present day situations was amazing. The idea that several key moments can change everything about the future is a heavy concept to consider, and over the course of this book there are several of those key moments. Moments that define who each character is going to become in the future. 

I had the big reveal figured out before it happened, but that in no way lessened the emotional impact of watching the characters during those pivotal scenes. Each time I thought I had things figured out, more questions would be raised, and I would have to reconfigure my predictions. I found myself feeling parallel emotions as Cal and Rae, especially, learned what happened during high school to estrange their friendships.

This was one of those books that will stick with me for some time. I can see myself reading this again to catch all the tiny details hidden throughout. Because there is nothing accidental about the way this book is put together. Everything comes back around, and I can’t help but want to experience it again.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rebecca Donovan 

Rebecca Donovan is the USA Today bestselling author of the highly-acclaimed New Adult trilogy, The Breathing Series. Her novels include: Reason to BreatheBarely Breathing, and Out of Breath.  When not writing, Rebecca can be found online at and  She lives in Massachusetts with her son.

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