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The Possibility of Now

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Mara James has always been a perfectionist with a plan. But despite years of overachieving at her elite school, Mara didn't plan on having a total meltdown during her calculus exam. Like a rip-up-the-test-and-walk-out kind of meltdown. And she didn't plan on a video of it going viral. And she definitely didn't plan on never wanting to show her face again.

Mara knows she should go back, but suddenly she doesn't know why she's been overachieving all these years. Impulsively, she tells her mom she wants to go live with her estranged dad in Tahoe. Maybe in a place like Tahoe, where people go to get away from everyday life, and with a dad like Trick McHale, a ski bum avoiding the real world, Mara can figure things out.

Only Tahoe is nothing like she thought. There are awesome new friends and hot boys and a chance to finally get to know Trick, but there is also still massive amounts of schoolwork. Can Mara stopping planning long enough to see the life that's happening right now?

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 26, 2016

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About the author

Kim Culbertson

6 books360 followers
Kim Culbertson is the author of the teen novels THE WONDER OF US (Scholastic 2017), THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW (Scholastic 2016), CATCH A FALLING STAR (Scholastic 2014), INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART (Sourcebooks 2011), and SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD (Sourcebooks 2010).

She believes books make the world a better place.

Happy Reading!


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 258 reviews
Profile Image for Maryam Dinzly.
666 reviews48 followers
January 8, 2016
I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BOOK. I think I devoured it within 3 hours. YUP, I DID. This book hooked me in from the start, in which I instantly love Mara James. I mean, she tore up her test paper! IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TEST. IN AN ELITE SCHOOL. Yeah, I definitely love her, alright. I definitely relate to Mara since the first page, and I actually think that most readers will relate to her, whether you go to an elite school or not, because we all know what it's like to NEED to do well. To always have to do well, be the best, instead of be YOUR best, and forever competing with everyone. Like I said, each and every one of us more or less went through the same phase that Mara did, except maybe the way some of us handled it are better than hers.

Mara was SMART. Like, legit smart. And she loves list. We definitely get to see her personality change, getting more relaxed, but I love how the author did not completely make it seem like OH, COME TO TAHOE AND YOU WILL DEFINITELY BE RELAXED kind of thing. Instead, the author did add in certain moments when Mara's old habit will come up again, and I think that's a good thing, because it shows that it didn't change her. It just made her maybe lessen her stress? I don't really know how to explain.

The romance in this book got me feeling confused too, which is really funny, because Mara was confused too. And I guess that was the whole point of reading? To be in the character's shoes. And I wouldn't say that there was a love triangle, but I guess some people will call it that. Me? I would just call it "mistaken love", in which there was a wrong guy at the right place kind of situation. So, nope, no love triangle here.

And I love how there's the whole family topic embed into this book, and that the author didn't make us choose sides between the parents. I hated it when other authors do that. In this book, even though Mara's parents weren't together, each had their flaws and best sides. Like, there'll be a time when you definitely cheer on her dad, but there will also be a time when you pat her mom on the back for the good job done. Get what I mean?

So yeah, I think most people should read this, even parents or adults. It shows how the education system in this world really works.
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,478 reviews900 followers
Shelved as 'setting-aside-for-now'
February 14, 2016
I liked the premise of The Possibility of Now -- a girl, under tremendous pressure to do well at her elite school and get into a good college, freaks out during a calculus test and this episode ends up on YouTube. I think the tremendous academic pressure many kids are under is a subject that YA books don't usually tackle head-on. But that's not the main focus of the book and there were other aspects of it that I wasn't as crazy about.

The main character, to get away from all the internet notoriety, goes to stay with her biological father near Squaw Valley. And there she finds a new perspective on life and finds romance with ... wait for it .... two possible boys. Of course. I feel like without even reading this I can predict what will happen. (Maybe I'm wrong -- going to go check out other reviews in a minute.)

P.S. I'm getting tired of characters who make lists: bucket lists, to-do lists, to-don't lists, goal lists, boy lists. Mara's is called a Now List. As in I'm over the list trope for now....
Profile Image for Celeste_pewter.
593 reviews147 followers
January 2, 2016
Ok. So I can definitely appreciate the fundamental themes behind The Possibility of Now.

As someone who went to a competitive high school, I saw more than my fair share of academic-incurred meltdowns, similar to Mara’s. So I am all in favor of books that teach teens how to find a healthy balance between academics and having a social life.

But where I think …Now struggles, is through Culbertson’s execution. We’re presented with a compelling set-up: Mara has a public meltdown during an exam, which is recorded, posted online and goes viral. As a result, Mara feels like the only alternative is for her to temporarily move in with her estranged father in the seemingly relaxed (and anonymous!) atmosphere of Lake Tahoe.

But Mara quickly learns that life isn’t perfect even in Tahoe, and both her father and newfound friends have extreme challenges of their own. Mara now has to figure out how to find her own happy balance, and what she wants out of life, both academic and personal.

Compelling, right? Especially when set against the backdrop of winter sports, cute boys and a beautiful setting?

Well, yes and no. From the get-go, Culbertson does a spectacular job of showing the frazzled realities of a teen who has fallen prey to the exposed, unrelenting atmosphere of competitive academics and of social media. Mara’s horror upon realizing that thousands of people have seen her melt down, and her fear that it’s the only thing that will define her now, is a real and relatable one.

Her newfound friends Isabel, Logan and Beck are good distractions, but Culbertson smartly reminds that their lives – different as they may seem from Mara’s – have stressors of their own.

But with the proper set-up out of the way, the book basically zooms through any semblance of character or plot development. Mara’s life is basically on fast forward: we get hints of her struggling with homework; wanting to ski over homework; getting mad at her dad Trick for being estranged, and caught in the inevitable love triangle between Beck and Logan.

(But even that’s over so fast; the triangle is basically resolved even before it had really begun.)

Along the way, Culbertson throws in some nicely worded sentiments, including a beautiful tangent from new friend Isabel about the United States of Do It My Way culture in Tahoe, and a sage reminder from a surprising new friend that the collective attention span of the Internet is a short one.

But Culbertson’s sentiments only remain just that. We understand that they’re bits of wisdom that impact Mara’s purview, but we’re never really given the opportunity to see how they work at a deeper level. We don’t see how they shape Mara’s understanding of herself or what she’s gone through, and how she’s going to conquer future stressful situations.

Part of that is like due to the relatively isolated setting, as it’s hard to expand on something when you basically only have five other people for your main character to interact with. But part of that is also due to the book’s lack of overall depth.

E.g. Mara decides to confront Trick, her estranged father, for not making an effort to connect with her. The blow-up is abrupt; the resolution even more so.

Though the reasoning for lack of said connection and the resolution are all dutifully presented, it ultimately just feels unfinished. And while Trick makes a point that helps further Mara’s personal development, the lack of any depth in their relationship, makes her whole point in going to Tahoe in the first place, feel very unresolved.

Ultimately, while Mara may feel happy in the end, I’m not sure the reader will feel the same. She may learn to live in the Now, but at the expense of a true connection to the reader.

Final verdict:

I think The Possibility of Now has some important ideas, including the poignant reminder that it’s not always greener on the opposite side of the fence. You sometimes have to make do with what you have, and find your own personal balance as you do.

However, I still couldn’t help but feel that there was something missing from Mara’s overall journey. Though I appreciated the fact that she had a cathartic stay that led to a better understanding of who she is as a person, it all just seemed a little too easy for me.

One or two meaningful conversations with friends, a few kisses and a few emotional reveals (with a slight emergency thrown in for good measure), does not equate to emotional enlightenment for me, and ultimately took away from my satisfaction with Mara’s overall character development.

While I think that some readers will appreciate Mara’s eventual conclusion that it’s important to find balance and live for what works for you, I’m just not sure that this book worked for me. I would recommend it to fans of contemporary readers, with the caveat that this will likely only feel like a snapshot of the real life that is experienced by teens.
Profile Image for Brices Mice Christian Book Reviews.
157 reviews16 followers
May 2, 2017
Wow! Talk about the stress you face in school...this poor girl has reached her limit! Mara's total meltdown during her calculus exam is captured on You Tube and her life is changed forever.

The story unravels as Mara decides to take a break from her perfectionist life to visit the dad that she only has a bit of memory of due to her Mom's "let's keep it a secret" attitude. Yes, Mara's family life at home with her brothers and stepdad is great, but she feels a new change of pace and life style is needed to keep her emotions in check. Mom's not crazy about the idea, but agrees to let her go to Tahoe if certain criteria is met.

Once there, Mara tries to figure out how to connect with her dad Trick, a laid back ski bum who lives life as easy as possible. Mara makes do with the living conditions, keeping up school work since she is suppose to go back after her break at Tahoe. Friends are made, and love is in the air...but which guy is going to win her heart as we are kept guessing who is the good guy in all of this. Misunderstandings are sadly made, but eventually the truth comes out about why Trick and Mom have split up.

The ending was very satisfying, tying up loose ends, and revealing shocking truths. This author knows how to spin a Young Adult story, making it as realistic as you can get.
Profile Image for jotta.
2 reviews
January 22, 2022
I’ve reread it and still love it, it’s just my comfort book for winter.💫
Profile Image for Steffi.
2,930 reviews166 followers
November 12, 2016
Der Einstieg in das Buch hat mir sofort gefallen. Ich mochte das Setting um den winterlichen Lake Tahoe und auch Maras Geschichte fand ich sehr interessant.

Leider ist meine Begeisterung im Verlaufe des Buches abgeflaut. Stellenweise fand ich die Geschichte sehr zäh und es ist nicht allzu viel passiert. Vieles hat sich ständig wiederholt und auch die Liebesgeschichte blieb für meinen Geschmack viel zu flach und unbedeutend. Hier hatte ich mehr Funkenflug erwartet und auch, dass die Liebesgeschichte eine größere Rolle einnimmt. Das angedeutete und leider typische Liebesdreieck durfte natürlich auch nicht fehlen.

Mara fand ich als Charakter sehr interessant und ich fand auch die Verarbeitung ihres Erlebnisses gut ausgearbeitet. Die Nebencharaktere blieben für meinen Geschmack aber viel zu flach und unbedeutend. Ich hatte nicht das Gefühl, dass sich hier richtige Freundschaften und Verbindungen entwickelt habe.

Das Setting war wie schon erwähnt richtig toll. Die winterliche Atmosphäre war klasse und auch die wintersportlichen Hobbies der Charaktere wurden gut in die Geschichte eingebunden.

Wintersternschnuppen war eine gute Unterhaltung, konnte mich aber leider nicht in allen Punkten erreichen und ich denke, dass man noch ein wenig mehr aus der Geschichte hätte heraus holen können.
Profile Image for Duchessbookworm.
1,107 reviews43 followers
July 20, 2016
2.5 stars. I had really big expectations for this book because I loved her other book 'Catch a falling star' but this book wasn't as inspirational. The book itself started a little slow. The book went on to have a mysterious factor involving the pasts of her mom and dad. But it didn't draw me in as much as you would think. I really hated her mom and dad the whole book. They didn't seem to care about what she wanted in opposed to what they thought. The end wasn't bad but it was lacking the romance factor, this book kinda gives out. They don't hang out that much. It was okay
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,216 reviews391 followers
February 12, 2021
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! I got a finished copy of the book for review from the publisher.

I go to college with two incredible women. One of them, Lori, is as nonstop as Alexander Hamilton. She won Undergraduate of the Year, she’s being inducted into the Student Hall of Fame, she’s our school’s first-ever Fulbright scholar, she’s done internships at Mount Vernon (among other places), and she did independent research her sophomore year on censored or otherwise altered artwork and literature from Nazi Germany. She’s a history major and museum studies minor genuinely excited by academia and the prospect of a challenge.

The other, Emma, is surely going to earn the Hall of Fame and Undergrad of the Year honors when she graduates next year. In three years, she’s worked up over 800 hours of community service and been involved in almost every way imaginable. When the pressure of academics and general school life got to her, she joined an international volunteer corps and spent two weeks in Peru. That’s not exactly something most of us would do to relieve stress, but that’s exactly what she did. When giving talks about it later, she said it helped center her and figure out what she wants to do in the future.

I mention both of these women because driven people like them are exactly the kind of people The Possibility of Now disrespects through Mara’s voice without any significant subversion of her through the story or narrative. It also treats therapy like something terrible only really messed up people need, which is deeply offensive to me as a woman who has been in therapy twice and gotten so much out of it.

At first, I really got Mara. Like her, I had a panic attack in the middle of school over everything suddenly being too much (but mine was mostly because I royally screwed up a photography project). Of course, mine was of the bent-over-hyperventilating-and-unable-to-stop-crying variety instead of her tear-up-tests-and-start-screaming incident. I also wasn’t filmed and uploaded to the Internet to become a viral video, but I’ve known the pressure, the humiliation, and the desire to escape it all. Bs to us have always looked like Fs no matter what we tell ourselves and we’re so used to doing well that we’d rather self-destruct than fail to meet someone’s expectations for us.

Clearly, there’s no issue with Mara being unrelatable. Her mother’s high expectations and the role she plays in Mara’s breakdown are great fodder for examining the specific roles of the parent and the child when the child is a high achiever. The introduction of the therapist character seemed to open the gates for such a discussion as well as generally being positive representation for therapy and mental health treatment.

Oh, Paige of two days ago. You were so naive.

The therapist has one or two sessions with Mara and then he disappears as a character when Mara decides she doesn’t need therapy. This is coming from a girl whose mother is domineering and completely talks over her during the first therapy appointment. So does she need a therapist? UM, YES. She can loosen up on the ski slopes and have fun and all that, but once she gets home, her relationship with her mom and her mom’s domineering personality won’t be any better, which will lead to another breakdown.

And yes, I still feel that way after her and her mother’s heart-to-heart over dinner because Mara’s mom is still attempting to be domineering at novel’s end. Nothing has changed there the way it needs to and it subtly dismisses the value of therapy. My second round of therapy was all about trying to fix my relationship with my mother after a massive fight over the summer, so I think I’m okay saying that Mara needs to talk to someone whose job it is to help people find healthy ways to solve issues in their lives.

Mara has more relationship issues than just the one with her mother. She’s very judgmental of people who are genuinely driven and thrive in the kind of environment that caused her breakdown in the first place. Some people can’t handle that kind of intense pressure. Others, like her best friend the aspiring oceanographer, get turned into diamonds by the same pressure that crushes Mara. She swears she’s going to be a better best friend to Josie toward the end, but her total disinterest in Josie’s excitement about a science project makes me wonder. I don’t see the journey from point A to point B there. Mara simply decides she’ll do it without any thought about how badly she’d treated Josie before.

That lack of relationship development troubles the novel in general, especially in regards to the romance. Mara’s primary love interest Logan goes from freezing her out after she kisses another guy to hiding under her table and immediately snatching her away to take her skiing. Logan clearly felt betrayed and rejected, but the two of them never had a conversation about he. He just forgave her out of the blue!

Oh, and there’s also the one-scene-wonder of a girl who comes to Lake Tahoe with her apparent boyfriend, takes a selfie, and decides she’s done with the place. It serves absolutely no purpose and shouldn’t be in this book at all. Really, it’s nastiness for the sake of it! Why not take that spare page and dedicate it to the conversation Logan and Mara clearly need to have about when Mara kissed Beck?

Toward the end of the novel, Mara has to write an essay on Catcher in the Rye and Holden as an unreliable narrator. Because the story is told only from his point of view and shows the world as he sees it, she and another character agree, he’s unreliable and the readers have to make some judgments themselves instead of agreeing with Holden’s biased impressions. If that scene is meant to address criticism of Mara’s own story, that’s not enough to make me forgive the novel’s sweeping judgments. Catcher in the Rye has a gap between the main character’s views and the what the narrative actually supports. There’s no such thing in The Possibility of Now.

I can’t recommend The Possibility of Now, especially if you genuinely love being busy and challenged academically. This novel isn’t here for you. On a final note, if the word “squaw” makes you cringe, you’re going to have a hard time here too. Squaw Valley is an actual place in/around Lake Tahoe, but that doesn’t make reading the word any less painful.
Profile Image for Karen.
364 reviews4 followers
July 18, 2017
Nice fairly wholesome YA book. Great for teen girl who isn't ready for to much adult material. Sweet story about a girl who has a meltdown in class and of course it is posted on You Tube. So she takes a break from her highly competitive high school in San Diego to stay with her Dad ,who she doesn't really know, in Truckee/Tahoe area. Nice setting, story revolves around Mara and her discovery of herself. Fun backdrop of the skiing environment.
Profile Image for Lydia.
268 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2017
So, I picked up this book because the author is coming to talk at my library. Although I knew it was not my style, it did not totally disappoint me. It had a strong message (that I should take to heart), some funny comments, and overall was a good read.
Profile Image for Michelle.
151 reviews
March 22, 2019
Super insightful. The teenage girl could teach many adults a few lessons.

“I shouldn’t care what most people think of me”
“But I think the thing to remember is most people aren’t”
“Aren’t what”
“Thinking about you. In my experience most people are just trying to find their car keys.”
Profile Image for Victoria (thepetitebookblogger).
87 reviews54 followers
August 11, 2021
The Possibility of Now had such a potential to be great, with its original plot and themes of self discovery, rebuilding relationships and learning how to have a healthy balance with school work and life. It sounded like something that I would like reading. Unfortunately, The Possibility of Now evolved from Mara learning how to deal with the aftermath of her very public meltdown and discovering what it’s like to live in the now to a romance and spending every waking minute skiing. Now, I wouldn’t have minded this if the synopsis hadn’t been so misleading. Here I thought that I would be seeing her rebuild her relationship with her father, work through the pressure of school etc. and I’m getting everything but this in the story!

As a high school student I can understand the amount of pressure that she feels at school and having a hard time finding a balance with homework and life because sometimes I feel the same way. So in the beginning I could completely relate to her and her situation ( well, not completely, I haven’t had a public meltdown. Yet.). But as the story went on Mara became difficult to understand. For being so “by the book” and always rigidly adhering to her lists she seems to make a a lot of very impulsive decisions. Such as her move to Tahoe, when she doesn’t really have a relationship with her father, her skipping therapy appointments just because she’d rather hang out with friends, and not trying to do well on her homework assignments. I don’t know, it just seemed like a really weird way to develop a character.

To me, living in the now doesn’t mean disregarding all responsibility just because you’d rather do something fun. It means knowing when to step back and be in the moment. By that I mean, not being on your cell phone all of the time or knowing when to put a book down and instead of reading about someone else’s adventures go and create your own. I wish that Mara had been able to reach this conclusion by the end of the book, because to me, it never felt like she was able to understand what “living in the now” means.

The romance aspect was terrible. If you could even call it that. Most of the romance, or book for that matter, was spent skiing.

It felt like the story shifted from Mara’s self discovery to Mara skiing ALL THE TIME! After a while, the aspect of skiing became boring and slowed down the pace of the book.


Enough with the Skiing!!!

I also really wished that her relationship with her father had been further developed and that it hadn’t been so rushed and hurriedly thrown into the end of the story, just like the explanation as to why he was cut out of her life, which in my opinion was a bit unreasonable. Like, yes, I can understand why her mom would be upset by his actions but, to have him completely cut out of Mara’s life for that one thing just seemed irrational. But this is how all of the character development is structured. Left unresolved throughout the book and then everything is hastily resolved in the last three chapters.

Overall, this book wasn’t what I had expected or wanted to read so I didn’t enjoy it as much as others have. I think that if you are into contemporary young adult fiction then yes, by all means, go and pick it up. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t like fluffy, annoying, cheesy books.

Thank you so much Scholastic and the Sunday Street Team for providing me with a physical copy for review. In compliance with FTC guidelines, I must state that I received this book for free and was in no way compensated for my review.
Profile Image for Nicole.
783 reviews118 followers
January 19, 2016
I was excited when I got approved to read the ARC of this book via Edelweiss for Sunday Street Team. It was an enjoyable read. The characters seemed realistic to me, and I especially loved Logan. Mara was a pretty great main character, and I loved watching her transform during her time in Tahoe, finally learning to let go a bit.

The book had a few slow moments, but overall it was entertaining. As someone who has never been skiing or snowboarding (shocking since I live in Wisconsin), it was really cool to learn some of the terminology and techniques. A lot of the time is spent on the mountains throughout the book, and I felt like the scenery and experience was very well done.

I really liked Mara’s character, since I could relate at least somewhat to her stress. I felt the need to push myself in high school and college, and at times, it was a little overwhelming. Logan was super adorable, and he’s a lovely addition to my book boyfriend list. I really liked Isabel as well. We didn’t see a ton of her in the book, but where she was featured, she was fantastic. As for Mara’s parents, I liked Trick. He was a little hands off (I mean he’s been out of her life for around 14 years), and later in the book we find out why. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mara’s mother. She felt a little too pushy to me, but thankfully Mara's stepdad helped balance out her character. Ollie was another great character, when we saw him.

There wasn’t a huge focus on romance for most of the book, mostly due to misunderstandings, but what was there was great. There were a couple points that I didn’t fully understand by the end of the book, so I guess I’ll be left wondering.

Here are a couple of lines I liked from the book: "'What's the point of doing something if you're not trying to get good at it?' He gives me a funny look. 'To just experience it.'" and "'Hey, it's the second-best thing for a'--he glances at my book--'calculus study session.' 'What's the first?' 'Me.'"

Final note: A cute contemporary novel with some romance and lots of skiing. I’d definitely recommend to any contemporary fan. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this story!
Profile Image for Amy.
269 reviews70 followers
December 19, 2017
This book caught my attention because of the setting. I grew up half an hour away from Lake Tahoe, and I was really interested to see a place that I've been going to for as long as I cam remember be portrayed in a book. I don't know what it was, but something about the portrayal of Tahoe just felt kind of off to me. Maybe it was Mara's perception of it, but something about it didn't feel quite right. I know that people perceive things differently, but Tahoe has never seemed like an especially laid back place full of ski bums to me, and this is how it is portrayed for a majority of the book. But this is definitely a me problem, and I'm sure most people won't notice it. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the scenery around Tahoe throughout this novel, though. Tahoe is such a beautiful place, and I think the author expressed that well.
Apart from the setting, I had a very hard time relating to Mara. Her personality type is so different from my own that I found it hard to connect to her. I always struggle with main characters that are very organized and, for lack of a better word, uptight. Isabel was definitely my favorite character, along with Trick, and Beck in a weird way. Logan was fine, too, but I found him kind of boring.
I enjoyed this book for the most part, but I just never connected with it in the way I was hoping. One thing that I found slightly jarring throughout the entire book was how things that I saw as small were portrayed very dramatically. It made the entire conflict of the book seem kind of forced, because none of the problems presented seemed like a big deal to me. Mara's initial panic attack that caused her to go to Tahoe made me think that this book would tackle serious issues, but most of the conflict with her friends (especially Beck) felt really forced and weird. However, most of the problems I had with this book stemmed from my background and personal reading taste rather than flaws with the book itself, and I definitely think others will enjoy it more than I did.
Profile Image for Paige.
112 reviews47 followers
September 25, 2015
Solid contemporary (think Elizabeth Eulberg). It was funny and talked about things I haven't seen YA books talk about yet, like first world problems and how other people's worse problems don't negate your own, but the main character was a little too self-righteous for me, amongst other issues:
-it harped on too much about the competitive vs. noncompetitive lifestyles—everybody seemed to have an opinion one way or another, which seemed unrealistic to me
-it felt like the author started the book with one idea of what the romance would be, then changed her mind, then changed her mind back again so the main character ended up with the guy who lost our (my) interest
-there was one character who had a lot of potential for depth and development, and it started to go there, but then he was just forgotten about and dismissed by the main character as incorrigible? She got really judgmental toward him really fast—mostly based on what other people thought of him—and it threw me off.

Also, just saying, that cover is really weird. It looks sunny and sort of beach-y but they're wearing hats and scarves, which don't even look warm enough for the climate described in the book? Maybe they'll change it before it's published in January.
Profile Image for Serah.
145 reviews4 followers
December 12, 2020
Initially, I would've rated this a 3 as I was invested with the second lead (another Xavier :/, tsk tsk tsk) and sadly he was presented as a tragic character. I dislike that kind of writing as it made to justify that the male lead is better.

That aside, it's a good coming of age novel and I have a soft spot with dad-daughter dynamics. Also, I like its take on the teenage life and the academic system. I had that bug back during uni days(which is really bad, shouldn't have happened especially if you're in uni and if I could turn back the time I would have taken a gap year) when I thought that being an achiever is meaningless. So yeah, overall I liked it, the characters like Oli and Isabel and even Logan grew on me (while I was unnecessarily rooting for Beck), and lastly the character development of Mara was good.
4 reviews
January 21, 2022
I knew as soon as I saw there were real people on the cover. Never in my 19 years of life have I written a book review before. But in this instance, I have feelings so potent and all-encompassing about a story that my fat little fingers cannot type fast enough. I am too incensed to get to a computer so I suffer. Spoilers because obviously. I received this book as a Christmas present from my dear friend (shoutout Mady) as a blind date with a book. I was pumped and felt called out, as an overachieving, high stress, know-it-all. Aside from being the blandest cliche of a teenage girl, Mara is fine. We are all bland cliches at 16. HOWEVER, the plot of this book is completely unacceptable. Or rather I should say the lack of one. I thought the therapy storyline of her recovering from her obvious stress induced psychotic break would be a nice thread throughout the book and a way to track Mara’s recovery and growth but nooooo god forbid this girl ever go to therapy. She went once. To meet the therapist and then she proceeded to ghost him for like 200 pages. I don’t know if you can fire someone as a patient, but he should have. And Beck? Oh, maybe they help each other find a middle ground between breaking under societal expectations and completely shirking them to be a rich bum. No. She changes her mind completely about him in a single page. Then eventually, right at the end, she insults him in front of his childhood friends who all judge him for basing his entire life around rebelling against his dad. His father who is literally verbally and emotionally (and it’s implied possibly physically) abusive. But no, Becks a terrible person for being messed up because of that. He’s a womanizing loser who only cares about himself. And when she yells at Beck, does he turn his life around and they accept him with open arms? NO HE VANISHES INTO THE SNOWY NIGHT AND THEY NEVER TALK TO HIM AGAIN. Logan is fine, seems nice. Her attraction to him is described with less passion than I express when talking about a piece of cheesecake, but whatever. The top two worst things about this book were neck and neck for the most brutally disappointing. Our runner up is the fact that despite her going to live with her estranged father, a man she has seen once in the last 13 years but decides to bunk with in a one bedroom shack, their relationship makes very little progress. There is no deep heart to heart, no major change, and his pathetic explanation for why he never tried to be in her life? Because he dropped her once while he was skiing with her on his shoulders when she was three. Bro, my dad would have laughed hysterically at that as long as I wasn’t dead. But the piece de resistance, the cherry on top, is that Mara’s mom is a terrible, awful, horrible controlling psycho who has driven her daughter to the brink with her constant drive for perfection and her emotional gaslighting and she IS NEVER CALLED OUT. NO ONE GETS MAD AT HER. SHE DOESNT EVEN GET YELLED AT. This is a woman who left Mara’s dad because of a bad investment and a skiing accident, and then proceeded to micromanage her children’s lives until the eldest went cuckoo for coco puffs and suffered the internet scorn of hundreds of thousands of people. And she thinks therapy is “for other people” even after Mara’s meltdown, but wanting to move to Tahoe??? That’s clinical insanity requiring serious intervention. Even until the last page, she continues to be an annoying wench. Oh and MARA DOESNT STAY IN TAHOE. A place where she is happy, and fulfilled, and still able to achieve but whilst having a social life and hobbies. People from Tahoe still go to college. This book, which could have been a beautiful message about the importance of balance, is instead like having a coach yell “walk it off” at you after you just got knocked into next week by the biggest guy on the other team. I’m not necessarily mad she went back to Ranfield and faced her fears. I’m just saying she ended up exactly where she started and getting a B at a high-stress school where students are encouraged to be at one another’s throats is not the “Mara has changed” victory it was presented as. I could go on for literally days, honestly I could write a review longer than the book itself but despite all its flaws it is enjoyable. I did read it in like two days. Was I avoiding chem homework? You’d have to torture that information out of me. I’d give it to a hs freshman, it might help them have some perspective. For a jaded college sophomore, wearied by the weathering of life? It was like oatmeal. Nothing special but it got the job done. Also. A sequel addressing these issues would have great potential. And it had its moments. This book was both an ode to Tahoe and a big middle finger in its face. Two stars.
5 reviews
January 22, 2020
I enjoyed reading The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson, a novel geared towards young adults about a young girl with an ideal plan for her life in her head, but isn't exactly executed when brought to life. Sixteen year old, Mara Mchale, moves from San Diego to Tahoe to reconnect with her long-lost father, Trick Mchale, in hopes to get her life back on track after a humiliating incident. Mara ends up finding more than she expected in Tahoe, she makes great friends, meets her boyfriend, Logan, and ends up thinking of Tahoe as “home.” I personally found this book captivating, as well as meaningful. You could tell this book is meant for teenagers as underlying messages are hidden in every piece of the book. While reading you’ll see a young girl, love, and trust develop throughout.

Have you ever felt like everyone’s staring at you or talking about you? Well so did young Mara. The Possibility of Now shows how even when you think all eyes are on you. It's often a case of someone completing an everyday activity that you happen to be present for. After a video of Mara sobbing and ripping up her calculus exam, goes viral, she becomes paranoid of everything happening around her. Her first trip out of the house after the incident, she went to the grocery store, and though everyone was whispering and staring at her, when in reality most people probably didn't even recognize her as “the girl who had a mental breakdown.” While skiing one of Mara’s friends, Oli, talks to her about the situation, “I shouldn’t be afraid of what other people think of me’ ‘Hard not to,’ Oli says, ‘But I think the most important thing to remember is that most people aren’t’ … ‘Thinking about you’ … ‘In experience, most people are just trying to find their car keys.” This point obviously stays with Mara, as when she eventually returns to San Diego a kid asked what happened to her or if she was out with mono while he was looking for his cell phone and she mumbled to herself, “Not just car keys, Oli, sometimes also phones.” As a teenager reading this book, the underlying messages are sometimes ones you need to hear, or know will help you stay calm in the future. Throughout the book, several points are made about the social life of a teenager and the anxiety that comes along with it. I believe all teenagers should read this book, because it truly shows the meaning behind staying calm.

The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson depicts a story of Mara Mchale working through struggles with social anxiety and how her new friends help her do so.
Profile Image for Amber.
15 reviews
September 29, 2018
The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson is about Mara James, a perfectionist, list making high school student who has a panic attack during one of her classes. It ends up on YouTube and receives a lot of views. This makes Mara want to get away, and so she does. She goes to stay with her biological father, Trick, in Tahoe.

At first, The Possibility of Now was slow. Like, really slow. I couldn't get into it. I felt like all I was doing was watching someone sit and study all day-- and that's all Mara really did. At times I was screaming for her to get up and do something. Anything.

Eventually the story did pick up a little bit and I was able to read more chapters at a time. By the end of the book, I was feeling good. It made me smile.

Mara's personal growth was great. No matter how hard you're working toward something, or how many to do lists you make, you have to stop and enjoy the little things in life. Take a break and do something you wouldn't normally do.

Characters were likable, except for Mara's mom and Beck. Overall, I enjoyed the story quite a bit. It made me think.
Profile Image for Emezia.
7 reviews
January 13, 2023
4.5 Stars

I loved this book so much more than I thought I would. This is so cozy, and it makes me want to live in Tahoe lol! So wholesome, and great character building!!!
404 reviews2 followers
June 5, 2017
This is a very sweet YA novel that every driven, AP test-taking junior should read. It offers the possibility of another way through that might seem more humane, indeed, more human, and make room for young people to consider a more true, or complete, expression of who they really are, and hope to be, in the world.
Profile Image for Literaturcocktail Jessica.
53 reviews4 followers
January 18, 2020
Es handelt um eine Familiengeschichte, die im Winter spielt mit viel Wintersport und die etwas Liebesgeplänkel enthält.

Der übersetzte Titel und das Cover verleiten in eine bestimmte Richtung und man erwartet eine romantische Liebesgeschichte, die das Buch kaum enthält.

Das Buch hat mich positiv überrascht. Gute winterliche Unterhaltung, stark!
Profile Image for Sherry.
827 reviews11 followers
March 14, 2016
I absolutely adored The Possibility of Now, by Kim Culbertson. Mara, an overachieving student and chronic list maker, buckles under the pressure to be the best. Even worse, her meltdown has thousands of views thanks to the cruel person who uploaded it to YouTube. She just wants to get away from the pressure and decides out of the blue to go visit her father, a man she doesn’t really know. The ski resort town where he lives sounds like the perfect place for Mara can to learn to live in the moment and figure out who she is. Unfortunately, the best choices for her aren’t always the obvious ones.

I loved Mara. I thought she was really easy to relate to, especially the idea that she’s pushing to be the best but has lost sight of why that’s important. I liked her awkward relationship with Trick, her father. You could tell he cared but was a little lost on how to bridge the distance between himself and his daughter. I loved the whole crew on the mountain, especially Oli, Isabel, Logan, and even Beck. They all had a place in the plot whether it was to silently support Mara, to be a good friend, to make her fall in love or encourage her to make the wrong choices. They all taught her about herself. I was glad to see the change in Mara’s mother by the end of the book. That woman was a pusher, even if she meant well. I really liked the laid back atmosphere the mountain provided. And I’m not going to lie, I have a tendency to love ski settings so that helped too. Aside from adoring skiing, there’s just something romantic about it to me. Logan was incredibly sweet with Mara. I liked the flirting and misunderstandings between them as it leant a realism to the relationship that is often missing in insta-love stories.

The writing was outstanding with a great balance between action and emotion, enough description to set a scene without being the scene, and some really well developed, honest characters that maybe didn’t say a lot but when they spoke it mattered. I absolutely loved this story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a young adult contemporary story.
Profile Image for Harker.
502 reviews51 followers
February 10, 2016
I received a free copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for a honest review.

Rating: 3.75 Stars

I think this book is one of those that you'll appreciate as a standalone story, but you'll appreciate it much more if you're someone who is into skiing, snowboarding, etc.

I was mainly interested in this book because I thought that witnessing Mara's academic "difficulties" and her handling them would make for a good read. They did and I was pleased to see how things worked out in the end.

The skiing atmosphere was different from anything I've read. I've never really read any books that involve winter sports (except for figure skating), so the introduction into that world was cool. It was a bit heavy handed and slow at times, which is why I think if you know a bit about that culture going in, you'll be better off.

One of the main points of Mara going to Tahoe, at least according to her Now list, is to get to know her father. I didn't get that kind of development in the story. They don't interact much, even though they're living together in a small cottage, and the only time you learn something of real significance from Trick himself is near the end of the story. It wasn't fulfilling. Even after you find out the reasons why Trick has been largely absent from Mara's life, I was left wondering why this seemed like it was supposed to be a big deal when the conclusion fell flat.

The romance aspect was a bit unusual, but I found myself kind of liking it by the end.

At the beginning of the story you think it'll end up with Mara dating one guy, then towards the middle it looks like it could be either one of them, and by the end it's the guy you thought it would be, but the road there was full of misunderstandings. Usually I hate it when a relationship gets built up only to be destroyed by stupid misunderstandings, but that didn't happen here. Things were worked through and neither party was as much of a jerk as I would've expected.

I was pretty happy with the ending. It didn't end as neatly as you might have expected from a contemporary YA novel, though it did backtrack a little in the "second ending" and make things happy(er).
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.1k reviews271 followers
July 28, 2016
Golden girl Mara James is on the fast track to success at her elite San Diego high school. After all, she's on her way to being the class valedictorian and has plenty of extracurricular projects about which to boast. But the pressure to be perfect finally gets her just as she is close to realizing all her goals. Unfortunately, for Mara, her breakdown is very public, during a calculus exam, which is captured and ends up going viral on YouTube. Completely mortified, she decides to flee to Squaw Valley where her father lives to her mother's annoyance and against her wishes. The vibe there is quite different, and she sets about trying to figure out what matters to her and to get to know her father, someone she has only rarely had contact with during her lifetime. As Mara stumbles through her days and tries to understand her self and her father, she also makes friends and kindles a romance among several locals. I liked how she started taking some risks and trying to find balance in her life, and how the author acknowledged her predilection for list-making, even when she was trying to live a freer existence. I also liked how Squaw Valley had its own particular kind of stress and her realization that a balanced life was what she needed to strive for all along. The pressure Mara was under was in many ways self-imposed, but also a product of her mother's goal orientation and the school's expectations. Although relationships seemed to form quickly in the book and the big revelations about her parents weren't all that surprising, I still enjoyed her journey of self-discovery. There were several themes and issues left unexplored, but still, parts of this one made me think. If they could make time in their packed schedules to read this one, many over-scheduled teens might find themselves described in its pages. Sometimes it's important to disconnect from the rat race, get off the treadmill, and just take some time for oneself and breathe.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Charmaine.
714 reviews1 follower
June 12, 2016
This was cute! I gobbled (most) of this up super quickly, but found myself slipping away and losing interest once Mara got together with the eventual "love interest." After a few obstacles were cleared, this felt a little too much like insta-love. Yes, they were friends for a while first, but once they got together, they were suddenly IN LOVE. It was too much, too soon.

There were definitely moments where I felt like I was way too old for this stuff. Mara can be super sensitive. And sometimes she lashes out like a total teenager. I mean, I guess that's what she is, but she does need to learn how to handle her emotions and her temper better. Appeasing her or letting her run away is not going to help her grow up.

My heart really went out to Beck. He just seems so... misunderstood. And of course he's not going to be the perfect guy when you intentionally ignore him and push him away. I hated how Mara kicked him when he was down. He's not a lost cause. He was there, he'd call, and he was obviously trying his best. His family may not have been perfect, but we aren't just our parents, you know? I wish this thread of the story got tied up more neatly.

Mara had a lot of growing up to do at the beginning of the story. I enjoyed the ride because I thought she was really learning how to relax and grow up, but by the end, I felt like not that much had changed at all.
Profile Image for Lexi Wright.
Author 1 book11 followers
January 28, 2016
Junior year is intense enough without having your meltdown in calculus class caught on video and shared thousands of times online. That’s one reason why superachiever Mara has decided to leave her hypercompetitive prep school in San Diego and hunker down in Tahoe for the rest of the school year. Getting to know her estranged dad is another. And so is learning to ski, upping her self-care, and kissing a cute snowboarder, all items on Mara’s evolving “Now List.” Using her list as a springboard into new experiences that steadfast Mara might otherwise avoid, she dabbles in a life she’s wholly unfamiliar with—but that unsurprisingly proves to be exactly what she needs. Culbertson (Catch a Falling Star, 2014) has once again crafted a cast of relatable teen characters and experiences and constructed a story reinforcing the idea that perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Both a cautionary tale against convention as well as an invitation to take uncharacteristic strides forward, this will hit close to home for many teens. — Lexi Walters Wright, First published November 15, 2015 (Booklist).
Profile Image for Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*.
6,001 reviews185 followers
December 27, 2016
Culbertson, Kim The Possibility of Now, 299 pgs. Point, 2016 (Scholastic). $17.99 Content: Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.

Mara has a panic attack in her calculus class that is recorded and goes viral. Mara decides that she needs to go and visit her biological father to get a break from all of the expectations put on her at school and a break from all of the negative social media responses. While Mara is in Tahoe with her dad, she starts to realize that it’s okay to have a plan B in life.

I really enjoyed this book because I think it explored an interesting issue that some teens have to be perfect, so they can get in the best school and then they forget to live in the moment or enjoy the journey. Mara is a great character who tries to do the right thing, but finds that just because you are trying to do the right thing, doesn’t mean everything will work out. Good clean read with a good message and fun characters.

MS, HS – ADVISABLE. Reviewer, C. Peterson.
Profile Image for Devon.
8 reviews1 follower
January 4, 2016
All I can say is, wow! This is not the typical book I would pick up off the selves, but I'm certainly glad I did! The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson sheds light on serious topics, such as anxiety and the pressure parents put on their children. Mara is role model for any student, getting the chance to live as "San Diego Mara", "Tahoe Mara", and well, just Mara. Mara troubled past with her father and perfectionism make her easily relatable. She taught us all that living in the now, is not just living right at that precise moment. Every character, from Mara, to Logan, to even the brooding Beck has a unique story to them, each with there own secrets and kryptonite. This novel is witty, page-turning, and down-right lovable.
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