Sue Whiting, The Book of Chance, Walker Books Australia, March 2020, 288 pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760651367
When we first meet Chance she is not in a good place: she is in a police station in Wollongong being interviewed about her mother, Nadia. She is confused and frightened.
The following chapters lead us to this moment, beginning with ‘Thirty-Seven Days Ago’.
As we follow Chance’s life up to this moment, we see she is living a very happy and settled life. She loves her mama and has neighbours who are like an extended family. Her mother works with refugees, helping them integrate into their new lives. Chance and her neighbour Missa-D, who is like a second mother, apply to a reality show I Just Want to Say Thank You as a surprise for her mum. A television company will do a make-over of her house in recognition of the work she does.
During the preparation for this surprise, Chance discovers discrepancies in the story her mother has told her about her father and about her birth. Chance soon realises that her mother has secrets and she needs to know the truth, no matter what the repercussions.
As a pertinent sub-plot, Chance and her school friends find themselves in trouble for posting inappropriate comments on Instagram. Whiting uses this device to raise the very real problem of cyber-bullying, but seamlessly integrates it into the plot.
Chance finds herself in an unenviable position, questioning everything that she has held to be safe and true. She has to come to terms with some very difficult truths, that involve some hard moral decisions to be made. However, The Book of Chance is not in any way depressing and the resolution is honest and uplifting.
Whiting has created a very relatable character in Chance. Her relationships with friends and family and her beloved dog, Tiges, feel genuine and heartfelt. Readers will have no trouble empathising with Chance and her world, recognising the familiar school environment and classroom banter.
I would highly recommend this novel to readers aged 12 years and over.
Reviewed by Gaby Meares