Thursday 14 May 2020

The Book of Chance

The Book of Chance by Sue Whiting, (Walker Books), 2020, RRP $17.99 pb
ISBN: 9781760651367

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

Here’s a really suspenseful page-turner. Each tiny nugget of information builds to a shocking reveal. 

Chance is a happy Year Seven student, living with her caring Mama, Nadia. Next door is the Deng family, former refugees from South Sudan, who have become Chance and Nadia’s extended family and best friends. Chance believes her father Steve died in a fire the day she was born. Her mother has written journals chronicling their lives entitled The Book of Steve, The Book of Nadia and The Book of Chance.

The novel begins in the present. Something catastrophic has happened and Chance is being interviewed by the police. No further information is given. The sense of mystery and secrets will immediately intrigue young readers. 

The story then jumps back 37 days to the Beginning of the End, the day Chance’s life began to unravel. Almost by accident she is given compelling evidence that contradicts what she believes is the story of her birth. When she confronts Nadia demanding the truth, Nadia admits that Chance is adopted. This is a huge shock, but worse follows. Although Nadia swears she doesn’t know Chance’s real parents, Chance finds a photo of two young people who died in a car crash. The woman looks so much like her, Chance wonders if this is her real mother.

A four-week-old baby was also believed to have died in the crash, although no remains of the baby were found. Chance struggles to make sense of the information. Is she the baby? What would that mean? Confused and sick in her stomach, Chance enlists the help of a journalist to find out more.

She’s a very black and white girl who believes something is either right or wrong. The truth or a lie. She is horrified when she discovers that her life has been built on lies. Although it is also true that Nadia really loves and cares for her. They have been happy. Plus, Nadia has led an exemplary life helping refugees adapt to the Australian way of life. To what degree does the truth of Chance’s present, balance the lie of her past?

The decision about what to do next is taken out of Chance’s hands. An associate of the journalist reports the situation to the police.

Sue Whiting based the book on a real crime that was committed in 1998 and not solved until 2017.  It is some comfort that this story, and I hope the real event, has a hopeful ending.

The Book of Chance is a compelling read, perfectly pitched for a middle-grade to younger YA readership. It poses many questions about the levels of right and wrong, and what it means to take responsibility for your actions. There’s an interesting sub-plot concerning trolling on social media which cleverly links the themes. Highly recommended. 

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