Seventeen-year-old Holly Callahan desperately wants to make the national rowing team so she can compete overseas, but she is the last rower cut. Her summer dreams are shattered, and she finds herself
Seventeen-year-old Holly Callahan desperately wants to make the national rowing team so she can compete overseas, but she is the last rower cut. Her summer dreams are shattered, and she finds herself back at home, living with her mother's annoying new boyfriend, Super Stew.
Holly's not a quitter. She lands a summer job, and then is handed an unexpected lifeline in the person of a man who offers to coach her in a single rowing boat. For a girl raised without a father, the coach's generosity — and rigorous demands — are a gift. But where did he come from and who is he, really?
Discovering the answer plunges her into sadness — but then he inspires her to work beyond her comfort zone.
Lorna Schultz Nicholson's compelling account of a teen athlete's life-changing summer will keep readers riveted until the last page is turned.
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Lorna Schultz Nicholson
is the author of many books about Canadian sports figures, as well as the celebrated One-to-One series of novels. A former radio host and health & lifestyle reporter, she is now a full-time author and presenter. She lives with her family in Edmonton.
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"There are very few, if any, fictionalized accounts related to the sport of rowing in Canada, and When You Least Expect It does an outstanding job of filling this niche, conveying the overwhelming physical demands and tenacity that are hallmarks of the art of rowing. An examination of the book cover spots adds further credibility with a recommendation written by Al Morrow, acclaimed and now retired Canadian Olympic Team Rowing Coach. This story is a compelling, page-turning read and was selected as a finalist for Alberta's 2022 R. Ross Annett Award for Children's Literature."
— CM Magazine
"Lorna Schultz Nicholson's work is an inspiring reflection of the journey of a young athlete pursuing their dreams…This riveting story focuses on finding the balance between work and family — and between passion and obsession. It brings insight into the importance of family and surrounding yourself with people who push you forward. Anyone who has chased their dreams despite the setback, been forced to adapt to new circumstances, or just wants to know they'll be supported by the people they care about will find inspiration in these pages. Written for a young adult audience, this story tells its reader to live life without regrets, strive for your dreams, and not forget to live along the way."
— Canadian Children's Book News
"Nicholson's novel flows, capturing the highs and lows of Holly's summer experiences. In Holly, Nicholson creates a strong, determined, and sympathetic main character, who has a lot of growing, rowing, and living left to do."
— youngadulting.ca Blog
"If you're looking for a book for either yourself or your teen, look no further. This book is one dealing with shattered dreams, tragedy, and hope all wrapped into one. I love reading young adult (YA) fiction and this one ranks high on my list of great reads. This book has depth beyond the main character and in turn, offers a realistic portrayal of a seventeen-year-old girl who finds herself in situations that she wasn't able to anticipate, let alone navigate… Schultz-Nicoloson weaves chapters of lyrical prose throughout the book that offer a glimpse into the mystery and tragedy that continue to cast shadows. Well done. Loved it. The characters are real and relatable. Sometimes cranky, cheeky, or disrespectful, but real, raw, and age appropriate. Great read. Highly recommend. Brava Lorna Schultz-Nicolson."
— Faye E. Arcand Book Blogger
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Winner of the 2022 R. Ross Annett Award for Children's Literature
Finalist for the 2022 High Plains Book Awards — Young Adult Category
On the Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books For Kids And Teens 2022 list
View Author comments
When You Least Expect It is a Young Adult coming-of-age novel about Holly Callahan, a teen athlete who is pursuing the dream of being an Olympian but there are personal setbacks in her path. I wrote about Holly because years ago I was a rower, struggling for the same dream, and I also encountered setbacks. Mine were different from what Holly is up against, but they were still there, holding me back. I never made my dream, and this is a chance for me to write about someone who can find a way.
After I stopped rowing, I became a rowing coach. During my time coaching I was involved in a tragedy that has been inside of me for a long time. The writing of this book is perhaps a healing process for something that happened thirty-three years ago. As I wrote, I looked at a lot of old photos of my rowing and coaching days and they brought up cherished memories.
When You Least Expect It will appeal to teens 13+ who enjoyed If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Exit, Pursued By A Bear by E. K. Johnston, or Skating On Thin Ice by Jean Mills.
View Short description/annotation
Holly Callahan is shattered when she's cut from a national rowing team. She returns home to a bizarre family situation, and summer rowing that isn't serious. When a knowledgeable, but mysterious, man at the club offers to coach her in a single, she secretly agrees. Where did he come from?