Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: If Only We by Jessica Sankiewicz

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's always tough to review a book when I have any inkling at all who the author is. I don't know Jessica as well as I know Marie (Landry) or Krystle (Jones), but it's still a tough position to be in. All the moreso because while I did really like If Only We, I can't just give this five hearts and call it a day. Which truthfully kinda kills me.

This is the third time I've sat down and tried to read If Only We, and once I got going I am happy to share that I ended up reading it within a couple days. But the fact that it took me multiple attempts probably makes it clear there was an issue or two.

So, what's the deal with If Only We? What worked for me--and what didn't? Read on and find out.
(Summary from GoodReads) 
They say all it takes is one wrong move and you lose the game. One false step and you’re trapped. One slip-up in your choice of words and you ruin a friendship forever. That is what they say. They say I lost.

I do not believe them.

At the end of the summer after graduation, Adrienne wonders what happened to cause her life to be in ruins. She isn’t getting along with her mom, her stepsister isn’t talking to her, and, to top it off, the boy she’s been in love with doesn’t want anything to do with her. She believes the turning point was a choice she made at graduation. When she wakes up the next day, she has been transported back three months to that moment, the one where everything started to fall apart.

Adrienne realizes she has been given a second chance—and this time she doesn’t want to mess anything up. Reliving the entire summer, though, turns out to be a lot harder than she thought. As the same days and weeks go by, she starts to see how simple decisions can make a huge impact on the world around her. Despite knowing some of what lies ahead, there are some things she didn’t anticipate. She thought she knew what mistake led her to where she ended up the first time. She was wrong.

And by the time summer is over, she discovers what was really at stake.
I wanted to read If Only We from the moment that I first read the summary. To me it sounded like someone was going to take time travel and blend it with a contemporary novel, which I thought was really genius. And in essence, this was what I feel I got. 

I like how many different things we got to see Adrienne juggling as she went through her second chance summer. (Sorry, I had to do that.) Her friendship with Lindsay, her relationship with her mom, her bond with her little stepsister, Kaitlin, and of course, her growing feelings for Chevy. I really liked the cast of characters I got to meet in this book, and I came to care for several of them (especially Kaitlin and Chevy) deeply. 

I found Adrienne to be a likable heroine and I enjoyed seeing her grow during the course of the book. I also like how the whole time travel thing was used. It wasn't a spoon full of sugar to magically fix everything. It was clever, allowing opportunities to resolve some issues, while causing others to again rear their ugly heads in ways Adrienne could not have predicted. 

In some ways Adrienne's mom comes across (in Adrienne's mind) as sort of the "villain". I liked how we get a real, tangible feeling of the guilt and dread that clashing with / disappointing her mom causes Adrienne. I also like how, by book's end, we do come to learn that Adrienne's mother, while stuck in her ways and pushy, does actually love her daughter. 

So, what were those issues I brought up? Well, for starts I had a bit of trouble with the opening. There was far too much thinking and not enough doing for a beginning, though I did like how this came intto focus as we found Chevy at the cemetery. 

The problem is that this lulling tactic does not contain itself to the beginning of the book. There were multiple places where summary was used while I sat here wondering why we were getting summary rather than a scene. Some of these were gray areas where either method could have worked and I question whether it was done due to any risk of repetition on the time travel aspect. Others were actually disappointing to me since I feel that they missed opportunities to get to know the people in Adrienne's life better. To put it another way: I would have gladly read the 'more' that some things would have added as scenes rather than summary, since I was interested enough in the characters to be sorry I missed getting their actual views about certain situations. 
If Only We has a terrific premise, memorable characters and a powerful message. While I didn't connect with the book as deeply as I had hoped, I did end up very wrapped up in Adrienne's world and I look forward to reading whatever Jessica chooses to write next. Definitely worth checking out. 


  1. Great review! I hadn't heard of this one before. I kind of like the time travel aspect inside a mostly contemporary feel plot! It sounds like it was well blended in, too. Glad you liked it even if it wasn't mind blowing. Sounds like it would still make a quick, afternoon read! :)

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