“An imaginative debut.” —Booklist “Hannah’s growth is organic and well earned.” —Publishers Weekly
In the tradition of Crenshaw and The Thing About Jellyfish, ten-year-old Hannah copes with the bullies at school and troubles at home through the power of stories in this sweet and sincere debut.
Tenacious. That means strong-willed. My mother calls me that.
I wish I felt the same way.
If this were a story, I would discover I was a direct descendent of a famous soldier who won countless battles and protected hundreds of people. This resilience running through my veins wouldn’t be damaged by the notes; it would fight off bullies and prevent my parents from yelling at each other.
But this is not a story. This is real life. My life as ten-year-old Hannah Geller, who is the only girl in fifth grade to have little red bumps on her face, is unable to let the sad thoughts escape her mind, and leaves heads-up pennies wherever she can to spread good luck.
And who also finds magic in the most unlikely of places.
If This Were a Story The Note I measure how happy a day is with sounds. Happy days sound like a TV on low volume or birdcalls through a screen door. Sad days sound like dishes crashing into each other in the sink. Sad days sound like too-loud voices. Once a day is stained sad, it’s hard to make it happy again.
My class copies vocabulary into our notebooks. I write the words like an astronomer discovering a new planet, as if the definitions can unlock the secrets of outer space. “Instantaneous”: when something happens without any delay. “Iridescent”: the quality of changing colors when viewed from different angles. “Intention”: an aim or a plan.
The tip of my pencil breaks. I walk to the back of the room and shove my pencil into the sharpener. The grinding sound is a happy one. It means a new point, a shiny do-over.
On the way back to my desk, I see a small piece of paper crunched into a ball on the floor. I pick the paper up with the intention of throwing it away, but it looks like my name is written on it. I unravel the note and read the three words on a torn sheet of lined paper. The words fill my head with the sound of flying arrows, quiet and quick and aimed in my direction. A sad-day sound.
Beth Turley is a graduate of the MFA in creative and professional writing program at Western Connecticut State University. She lives in southeastern Connecticut and teaches writing as an adjunct. If This Were a Story is her first novel.
"Like Ali Benjamin’s The Thing about Jellyfish (2015), Turley’s accomplished novel is deeply rooted in the imagination of its protagonist, whosehopes and fears are truthfully voiced. . . .An imaginative debut.”