This Could Be Everything: Novel Review

Review by Stacey O’Carroll

Author: Eva Rice

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $32.99

Release Date: 22 March 2023

“The way through was by moving, by keeping moving, by waking up and stepping onto hard pavements and walking and walking. It felt logical. Movement was a solution of sorts, a way of getting through the days.” (Eva Rice)

Finding hope and a way to keep moving forward after a devastating family death (or deaths) is tricky as an adult, let alone as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. In English author Eva Rice’s (The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets) latest novel, This Could Be Everything, the tragic deaths of three of nineteen-year-old February Kingdom’s family members triggers such immense grief that she becomes agoraphobic. That is, until one day, a canary called Yellow lands in her kitchen and starts a chain of events and chance meetings that help February (or Feb as she is known) find a way through the front door of her aunt and uncle’s Notting Hill terrace house and back into the outside world of 1990 London. 

“Grief doesn’t truck along behaving itself.”

Grief isn’t a linear road we take. Sometimes, we need the help of other people to find our way through grief. Theo is that person for Feb. After Feb meets Theo, she starts to venture outside and into the life she was hiding from. He helps her begin to live again.  

Rice’s characters are interesting, complex and flawed humans. When family secrets are uncovered, Feb begins to see her aunt and uncle as people who are struggling with their own grief and challenges. When Feb learns that her idolised model sister was just as flawed as everyone else, there is a powerful shift she starts to separate from her sister’s shadow. 

Rice immerses the reader into Feb’s world by vividly capturing the sense of life in the 1990s as a teenager in North West London, grief and panic attacks. The shortness of breath and the feeling of the world closing in on you during a panic attack is so realistic that it’s hard not to reach into the book and hug Feb. 

However, what first excited me about Eva Rice’s latest novel was the chance to step back into the nostalgia of 1990, but this time in London. Filled with pop culture (Smash Hits magazine, Top of The Pops), musical references (The B-52’sINXSThe Adventures of Stevie V, Madonna and Roxette) and a playlist to sing along to afterwards, Rice’s This Could Be Everything has all the key signs of a potential film adaptation.

One of the funniest scenes involves an awkward and hilarious encounter with Michael Hutchence. A Minogue sister may also make a cameo appearance.

Rice’s love for music shines throughout the novel. Her background touring with bands, writing lyrics for a musical and her “party trick…recalling chart positions” have provided sound research for her novel. Feb’s obsession with the pop music charts seems to be inspired by Rice’s own talent for knowing song chart positions. I also assume that the author used her own favourite songs to provide a soundtrack to Feb’s story. 

Alongside Rice’s use of music to help set the tone for different scenes, she also uses tennis (and a tennis ball) as an interesting metaphor that could represent the back and forth of her attempts to overcome her agoraphobia. However, Rice’s use of the colour yellow, the colour of cowardice and fear, as a thematic device and metaphor to tie the plot together is a great touch and clever idea. The sequence of which, for me, mimicked the flight of a bird. We could all use a canary named Yellow and a little more 90s music in our lives.

If I was to fault anything, there were times when I had to flick back to recheck Feb’s age, because sometimes the protagonist sounded younger than nineteen. However, after finishing the novel, I wondered whether this was intentional to show how Feb had potentially regressed to an age where she felt safe rather than facing the scary adult world without her sister.   

I loved This Could Be Everything and struggled to put the book down. Rice skilfully balances the heartbreak of grief with funny interludes that allow the reader moments to breathe and reflects the waves we ride after loss. 

Rice’s This Could Be Everything is a beautiful, poignant and, at times, heartbreaking story of finding a way back to ourselves and living life again. Feb’s story reminds the reader that there is hope if we open the door and let people (or a canary) inside. Rice’s novel will have anyone who grew up in the 1990s nostalgic for daisy print, cassette Walkmans and hovering your fingers over the play/record button to record music off the radio. This Could Be Everything is a fantastic book. Perfect for a summer holiday read with a bit more depth or to escape the current world for a bit of 90s Notting Hill and a sing-along to Janet Jackson for a while.