I should probably put in a little disclaimer here: Jessica Sankiewicz is one of my best friends. We met through book blogging a little over two years ago, and our friendship has gone far beyond just our mutual love of bookish things. Even though we’ve never actually met in person, I know I can count on her for anything. I’d heard her talk a lot about her writing project If Only We, and I was eager to read it. I feel so honoured that I got to be part of this book in little ways - I designed the cover, beta reader for Jess (she's beta read my last three books), and formatted the ebook.
So while people might think that because she’s one of my best friends I’d go easy on her writing, it was quite the opposite. If anything, I was tougher on her because I want her to succeed. I wanted her to avoid a few of the stumbling blocks I had with my first novel, when I didn’t really have anyone to hold my hand and guide me or give me advice. I was brutally honest, knowing she would appreciate it and take my criticism for what it was - constructive, and from a place of love.
Now, with that out of the way, I can finally talk about the actual story!
As someone who loves anything to do with time travel, the concept of If Only We appealed to me instantly. It’s not your typical time travel story - Adrienne doesn’t go back and forth in time, but she does go back, and she gets to relive the summer where everything in her life got messed up. She gets the ultimate second chance, and she’s determined not to mess it up.
Adrienne was a great character - strong and determined, creative and kind. She wasn’t perfect - she made mistakes, she was insecure at times, she told lies to protect herself - but it made her more realistic. She learned a lot of hard life lessons that summer. The theme of second chances played a big part in every aspect of the book, from Adrienne’s career choice to her relationship with her family to her relationship with the boy who broke her heart. She realized life isn’t always black and white, and she also realized that when life gives you a second chance, you don’t question it, you grab it with both hands and you make the best of it.
I really liked that this story dealt with tough subjects like alcoholism. A lot of authors shy away from things like that, but Jessica tackled it in a way that was true to life. There was a nice balance of the big things - family issues, a mother with unrealistic expectations, uncertainty about the future, a friend’s father’s alcoholism, unrequited love - and quiet, small moments of everyday life, which I appreciated. Those little moments are part of what I love most about contemporary books, because they give you a chance to relate to and connect with the main character.
A sweet and uplifting story about second chances and love in many of its forms, If Only We is a great contemporary story that I think will appeal to people of all ages. It’s one of those books that could be considered either young adult or new adult - Adrienne has just finished high school and is on the cusp of adulthood, learning big life lessons. (less)