REVIEW: When You Get The Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson

The Official Description: Follow cousins on a road trip to Pride as they dive into family secrets and friendships in this contemporary YA novel — perfect for fans of David Levithan and Becky Albertalli.
As kids, Mark and his cousin Talia spent many happy summers together at the family cottage in Ontario, but a fight between their parents put an end to the annual event. Living on opposite coasts — Mark in Halifax and Talia in Victoria — they haven’t seen each other in years. When their grandfather dies unexpectedly, Mark and Talia find themselves reunited at the cottage once again, cleaning it out while the family decides what to do with it.

Mark and Talia are both queer, but they soon realize that’s about all they have in common, other than the fact that they’d both prefer to be in Toronto. Talia is desperate to see her high school sweetheart Erin, who’s barely been in touch since leaving to spend the summer working at a coffee shop in the Gay Village. Mark, on the other hand, is just looking for some fun, and Toronto Pride seems like the perfect place to find it.

When a series of complications throws everything up in the air, Mark and Talia — with Mark’s little sister Paige in tow — decide to hit the road for Toronto. With a bit of luck, and some help from a series of unexpected new friends, they might just make it to the big city and find what they’re looking for. That is, if they can figure out how to start seeing things through each other’s eyes.

Just the facts: Young Adult book, many queer characters, family history, and relationships.

Queer and Very Canadian! – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: I have mixed feelings about this book so grab a coffee and get comfy!

This book is primarily about Mark and his little sister Paige, and their cousin Talia. The two families live on opposite coasts of Canada and although Talia and Mark remember spending a great deal of time together when they were young, it’s been years since they’ve seen each other. The parents in the book have had some sort of rift develop between them: Mark’s Mom and Talia’s father can’t be around each other without eventually getting into an argument.

So, the family is all thrown back together when the grandfather passes away. Mark and Talia’s grandmother has a cabin on the lake, the place of those mystical summers from youth. What will happen to the cabin now?

I’m going to leap right into what I liked about this book! It was great to read something that was very Canadian. I think that we need more Queer literature that is Canadian. In my experience, so much of it is American…and that’s great…but Canadians have a unique culture and it’s always great to read a book and be able to think, “Oh! I’ve been there!”

There were some great explanations of current gender-related terms. The authors did a great job of writing some conversations about a person who is non-binary. What I liked was that it wasn’t simple definitions, it was a question and answer session. Throughout the book, some of the characters are sorting out their own gender identities and it was refreshing to read about it.

Throughout the book, there are conversations about sexual preference and identity that really demonstrate how much the language has changed over the years. The authors did a great job of showing how difficult language can be! People can be on the same page, can really not want to hurt each other, but unintentionally can hurt by saying the wrong things or misunderstanding what is said.

We all know it! Gender, orientation, and identity can be a minefield when trying to have a conversation!

The characters were interesting to me. I didn’t like Mark a lot. He’s a gay teenager but man was he self-centered! His one redeeming quality was the love he had for his little sister, Paige. But even that, on occasion, was set aside.

There were a few things that were “set aside” a bit too easily for me in this novel. The grandfather who passed away at the beginning of the novel is really. not mentioned again until the end of the novel. In fact, pretty much the first thought that Mark has upon hearing they are going to Toronto for the weekend is that he might be able to attend the Pride parade. I get that teenagers can sometimes be focused more on themselves than anyone else… but boy that was a selfish character. Not only is he only worried about getting to Pride, he basically abandons his little sister a few times during the novel – once he does it in the middle of Toronto.

Talia was a great source of wisdom but, as a social justice warrior, I felt like she bordered on being a bit judgemental. Some of her dialogue came off as being a bit preachy. Even though I appreciated the messages she was speaking, I found the tone a little off-putting at times.

Paige! 10-year-old Paige was GREAT! I loved her straight forward, no-nonsense way. I also loved that she kind of represents a different generation yet again. She is very accepting of all queer identities becaus that’s just her reality. She was adorable.

This is a fast read. The plot isn’t a real serious one, even though it seems like it might be from the description. It’s not really about a road trip, that happens for a handful of pages, it’s more about two teens and the emotions and growing they do in a few weeks one summer.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Discussions about sexual identity and gender identity, outing (unintentional and corrected), break up and emotional aftermath, discussion of deceased family members, deceitful acquaintance, attempted robbery by a known person (interrupted)

Readalikes: Other stories that are similar or give the same feel.

Links: Goodreads // The Author  The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of When You Get The Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson from Running Press Kids via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.