The Possible

I am not really a podcast person. Okay, fine, so I've only listened to a few episodes of Serial, and I have every intention of listening to more of Welcome to Night Vale, but it's hard for me to understand the fervor that I see crop up when a new It-podcast hits the airwaves. (Can I still say that? Airwaves? Will people know what I mean?) The general lack of background noise rubs me the wrong way: I feel like it's just me and a total stranger in a soundproof room and they are telling me a story in a very modulated, carefully enunciated, precise manner. And it's so awkward.

Tara Altebrando's latest book, The Possible, describes how an investigative podcast (also named The Possible) upends the life of a seemingly totally normal teen girl. I wish I could say that I loved this one as much as I did The Leaving--with passion and flailing and much fangirling--but I did not. However, The Possible redeemed itself at the last moment with the last, short chapter.

What, you think I'm going to actually tell you what happens? Ha.

Kaylee is a super-normal teen with an average family in an average American suburb. Except ... not really. Kaylee is adopted, which is handled extremely well in the story, and both of her parents are engaged and loving and just ... wonderful people. Not that being adopted isn't average (because why not? Let's make it the norm!), but being adopted because your birth mom is a telekinetic murderer is a bit beyond the pale.

She doesn't like people to know, but Kaylee's mom is actually Crystal Bryar, a teen who hit the front pages in the early 90s (oh my god I am old. I am so old.) because of her supposed telekinetic powers. Think Carrie but without the pig's blood. Funny thing is, Crystal could never make anything levitate, move, or even do a little shimmy-shake when a scientist was looking. It was all hearsay and blurry photographs. So after some time, she faded into relative obscurity and had two children. But when her daughter Kaylee was four, Jack died, and Crystal was convicted of his murder. The most damning testimony came from her daughter, who stated that her mommy killed her little brother.

Now, a podcast producer named Liana lurks around Kaylee's house, trying to get her to participate in an investigation of Crystal's supposed powers. While telling everyone your mom is a possible fraud and a convicted murderer isn't everyone's idea of social mobility, Kaylee has ambitions. She'll do anything to get the attention of her crush, Bennett. And the idea of participating in the podcast seriously ticks off her parents, so of course she's going to do it. And for a while, she does get to bask in some minor celebrity. Suddenly, kids at school who formerly ignored her say hi in the hallways, and Billy even talks to her at the pool. But not everything is as rosy as it seems.

Kaylee has always wondered about her mom ... and about herself. Funny things have happened when she had strong feelings about them. Like that time at the softball game when she wished that Princess Bubblegum, her sassy sobriquet for Bennett's girlfriend, would trip and fall ... and she did. Or when a giant branch fell on Bubblegum and broke her arm, landing her in the hospital and precipitating her breakup with Bennett. Lots of little things that add up to one big question: does Kaylee have telekinetic powers?

Altebrando plays games, yet again, with her readers. Kaylee narrates the story, and almost right away, you can tell that there's something not quite right. She's a little too intense. To wit:

"She didn't deserve him.
He'd realize it.
I simply had to be patient.
Because this was what was going to happen:
Junior prom tickets were going on sale in a few days. And when they did, he'd realize he didn't want to take Princess Bubblegum. So he'd dump her. He'd take me."

Kaylee wobbles along the fine line of intensity and obsession throughout the book. Not just with Bennett, but with everything in her life. With the possibility of having telekinetic powers. With figuring out the truth. But what if the truth is something Kaylee, as the narrator, deliberately obscures from us? That is the most fascinating part of this book.

The plot point revolving around Kaylee's love life--particularly the fact that her super-hot best guy friend is in love with her but she totally doesn't know it because "Ugh! I don't see him that way!" has been beaten to death and it was torturous to read through again. I get it: this is A Thing That Happens In Real Life but I have yet to see it presented in an interesting manner. Mostly it's a lot of wistful pining and random angry outbursts and sniping. Which, I suppose, is true to life, but not spectacularly fun to read over and over again.

While The Possible has a twisty story and--hello!--a seriously gorgeous cover, I can't help but think that it doesn't measure up to The Leaving, which I positively adored. This might be because the situation in The Leaving had a lot of solutions: the kids could have been kidnapped, they could have wandered off, they could have been abducted by aliens, they might have never gone missing at all but all been suffering under a mass hallucination which was covered up by the townsfolk. In The Possible, you've got one of two scenarios: telekinesis is real or it isn't. Kaylee can move things with her mind or she can't. That's it.

That being said, fans of psychological thrillers and unreliable narrators will love The Possible. I enjoyed it very much, and I can't wait for another book from Altebrando.

I received a copy of this title from Edelweiss.



Popular Posts