This is a book that you’re going to not want to put down. And, you might need some tissues. I discovered the author C.S. McKinney through a friend’s Instagram and immediately downloaded the novel If and Only If: Experience College in Her Running Shoes. It was a novel that I am so glad that I impulsively downloaded, and of course, consumed in less than one day’s time.
It tells the story of Sarah, a senior in college and a member of her college’s track team. Sarah is interested in Paul, but awkwardly doesn’t know if he returns the interest. She soon gravitates towards Nigel, and the course of events lead her running toward a path away from her core values.
Okay so this novel was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. So many things happen in these 300 pages. However, it wasn’t done in a way that was overwhelming to the reader. It was done in a way that was both suspenseful and entertaining.
This book also shows the stresses of college, the stress of being on a track team, and of course, highlights romances in a realistic light. That said, the novel also shows some other struggles of the main character, including disordered eating, and dealing with health issues.
Now let’s talk about the romance in this book because there was a lot to unpack here, folks. Sarah is very shy — but there’s so much opportunity for her to get together with Paul. The two share the same values, they seem to be into each other, and share a love for running. However, she chooses Niguel. I wanted to pop into her world and say “no don’t.” But, in life, we often don’t choose the right person sometimes, so I do think that it is really realistic.
This book also discussed faith, which was one of the first times I came across it in a romance novel. Sarah’s faith is important to her. She wants to remain pure until marriage. There’s a chance that she may have jeopardized that for herself, something that was causing her to taint her vision of herself. What I loved about this novel is that it wasn’t too much overdone and it wasn’t in your face.
Overall, this novel was an amazing read. In fact, I am so excited to read the author’s next installment in the series (which I hear is to be picked up where this one leaves the readers) that is expected to come out on September 14, 2022. I give this novel five out of five stars, but advise readers for the trigger warnings of eating disorders.