Colleen Mondor Reviews The Possible by Tara Altebrando

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyThe Possible, Tara Altebrando (Bloomsbury 978-1-61963-805-1, $17.99, 292 pages) June 2017.

For the first six pages of The Possible, Tara Altebrando wrote a YA novel about a smart-ass 17-year old named Kaylee who has two best friends, a crush on a classmate, and a killer talent on the softball mound. All of this is familiar territory and Altebrando delivers it with a degree of sass and wit that conjures up the best teen dramas, without going too deep on the drama. Then she drops the hammer when the host of a popular podcast shows up at Kaylee’s door. Liana wants to interview Kaylee for her show, The Possible. She wants to talk to Kaylee about her birth mother, Crystal. She wants to know if she remembers what Crystal did to get sent away to prison for life. She wants to know if Kaylee has telekinesis, too. So much for typical teen drama!

Liana’s podcast is hot and fans are excited to hear the new series; it is sure to garner a lot of attention. (Think of Serial.) She has long wanted to take a look at Crystal’s case and see if there is any truth to her defense claim that telekinesis caused the murder she was convicted of, not her. Crystal enjoyed mild fame as a teen telekinetic and it is exactly the sort of subject that Liana’s listeners are certain to enjoy. She wants to interview Crystal’s daughter and see if she has ever experienced anything that would suggest she is telekinetic. If Kaylee is, then maybe Crystal really was and that means Crystal was telling the truth all along. Liana can see the ratings rise from a mile away, which means she should be a perfect villain for all that goes down here. But Altebrando is a much better writer than that, and the subtle manner in which she weaves paranormal possibilities and outright mystery into the narrative is evidence of just how good she is.

The spotlight presented by the podcast is not a place that Kaylee is really equipped to inhabit, but she cannot resist the lure of knowing more about her birth mother. There is also the telekinesis and all those odd little things over the years that could have been coincidences but maybe, upon reflection, were not. Is there something to it, are all the things that Kaylee is really good at, all the times she seemed extra lucky, actually evidence of something else? If she is “special,” what does that mean for her own memories about Crystal’s crime? And, perhaps most importantly for Kaylee, how is all this going to change how everyone she knows treats her? Salem might have been a long time ago, but no one ever really likes those extra special women, do they?

Tara Altebrando does a first rate job here of crafting sharp commentary about the pub­lic’s obsession with notorious crimes (and criminals). She also walks a perfect line on the question of telekinesis, making it seem just the right degree of possible before turning around and making it easily dismissible… or not. Most importantly, this is an author who knows how to capture the whole “coming of age” question better than most. She should be a lot better known than she is, and with The Possible she will certainly enthrall fans eager for her pierc­ing way of getting to the truth, no matter how unexpected it might be.

Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website:

This review and more like it in the April 2018 issue of Locus.

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