ARC Review: One Way or Another by Kara McDowell

Title: One Way or Another
Author: Kara McDowell
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 336 Pages
Published October 2020

Summary: The average person makes 35,000 decisions every single day. That's about 34,999 too many for Paige Collins who lives in debilitating fear of making the wrong choice. The simple act of picking an art elective is enough to send her into a spiral of what ifs. What if she's destined to be a famous ceramicist but wastes her talent in drama club? What if there's a carbon monoxide leak in the ceramics studio and everyone drops dead? (Grim, but possible!) That's why when Paige is presented with two last-minute options for Christmas vacation, she's paralyzed by indecision. Should she go with her best friend (and longtime crush) Fitz to his family's romantic mountain cabin? Or should she accompany her mom to New York, a city Paige has spent her whole life dreaming about? Just when it seems like Paige will crack from the pressure of choosing, fate steps in -- in the form of a slippery grocery store floor -- and Paige's life splits into two very different parallel paths. One path leads to New York where Paige falls for the city... and the charms of her unexpected tour guide. The other leads to the mountains where Paige might finally get her chance with Fitz... until her anxiety threatens to ruin everything. However, before Paige gets her happy ending in either destiny, she'll have to face the truth about her struggle with anxiety -- and learn that you don't have to be "perfect" to deserve true love.

I received an advanced reader's copy of ONE WAY OR ANOTHER from the author in exchange for an honest review, and I'm really glad that I did, because this was such a sweet read to put me in the holiday spirit! I read Kara's debut novel, JUST FOR CLICKS, two years ago and I ended up really loving it. So I was excited to pick up another one of her books! Without further ado, let's get into my review:

As the summary explains, this story covers the two different parallel universes in which Paige has to make a decision: Will she go to the cabin with her best friend (and longtime crush) Fitz for Christmas, like she's always dreamed of, or will she end up spending Christmas in New York with her mom, which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her? This is an especially important decision for Paige, as someone who deals with anxiety and has an incredibly difficult time making any sort of decision, let alone one as big as this. So the story is actually told in two alternating timelines (a la Jennifer Gilmore's IF ONLY), playing out exactly what would happen if Paige chose each decision.

I really enjoyed reading this book! I think it was a really sweet holiday read to get me in the mood for Christmas, and I'm really glad that I picked it up around this time so I could lose myself in the holiday magic. I also really loved the fact that Fitz is a huge rom-com fan and loves to fall in love and loves a grand gesture, because that's exactly the type of person I've always been, too! Rom-coms are my favorite media to consume, whether it's through books, movies, or shows. I also can really relate to Paige in the whole "pining after your best friend" department -- I met my boyfriend when we were 11 and I had the MEANEST crush on him for so long (and he on me, apparently!), and I spent many years before we got together daydreaming about what it would be like to be with him and getting jealous whenever he was dating someone else. But fate worked itself out in the end, and here we are. <3 

I also really love the way that Paige's anxiety is dealt with in this book. It's tackled very seriously and not brushed off without managing to be super heavy. Paige has severe anxiety when it comes to making any sort of decisions, because her mind constantly spirals into everything that can go wrong if she chooses one decision over another, etc. And that's why she isn't sure what to do about Fitz, or where to spend her Christmas. On a related note, I really liked seeing both fates play out in their entirety, because it's really interesting to see what things would be different and what things would stay the same if she chose one option over the other.

(Spoilers in this paragraph, so skip to the next one to avoid them!) I was just left feeling a little bit confused at the end of this book, because I wasn't quite sure which fate ended up being "true" or what actually happened to Paige when she fell in the store that day with Clover. That isn't really mentioned again, at least not that I can remember (I just finished reading the book about an hour before writing this review). It seems like the New York fate was the one that ended up happening in the end, but I couldn't really tell for sure? Was the cabin fate even real at all? Just a dream she has while she's knocked out in the hospital in New York? It wasn't really clear and that part left me feeling a little confused. While I don't think I need a scientific explanation for the whole split-fate thing, I'd at least like to know which one ended up being "true" or even just what happens after that moment in the store. It left me feeling a little bit confused.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. If you're looking for a quick, sweet holiday read to curl up with by the fire alongside a mug of hot cocoa this Christmas season, then I'd absolutely recommend picking this one up. Kara McDowell is a champion of writing sweet stories that will leave you swooning, that's for sure!


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