Title: What If…Everyone Knew your Name
Authors: Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2006
Reviewer: Christina Hamlett (www.authorhamlett.com)
Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James have come up with a winning formula for their “What If” YA series in which readers are presented with two choices at the end of each chapter on what the lead character should do next. “What If…Everyone Knew your Name” speaks to the age-old challenges of distinguishing yourself at a new school. Heroine Haley Miller, 15, is not only having to adjust to a new neighborhood but also trying to figure out which crowd to hang with, how to attract the attention of a certain hottie boy, and how to reinvent her own looks. It’s an amazing concept for confronting the consequences of our actions and, accordingly, makes a good candidate for a mother-daughter book club discussion.
The authors deftly handle a multiplicity of themes—friendship, loyalty, honesty, self-esteem, body image, and personal responsibility—in a way that never descends to preachy or heavy-handed. For the reader, I think the biggest challenge is in following any of the self-directed storylines all the way through to their conclusion. Many a time when I chose an option and read the consequences of it, I was tempted to keep a bookmark on the page where that option was offered and see if the alternative would have been a smarter move. Real life, of course, doesn’t come with its own rewind or do-over button, all of which makes the Ruckdeschel/James series a valuable way to explore values and hone decision-making skills.