Rules for 50/50 Chances - Kate McGovern
A heartrending but ultimately uplifting debut novel about learning to accept life's uncertainties; a perfect fit for the current trend in contemporary realistic novels that confront issues about life, death, and love.
Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she's going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington's disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.
With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family's genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she'll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.
So, full confession: I know next to nothing about Huntington's disease. All I know is that Doctor Thirteen, played by Olivia Wilde, on House M.D. had it, which she inherited from her mother and we had a several episode arc where she was mentally trying to decide if she wanted to know if she had it. It's not a disease you just get, you're born with the gene and basically it comes on slowly usually in your 30's or so and progressively gets so much worse. Patients eventually lose control over physical movement, cognitive impairment and some psychiatric symptoms.
Basically, it's a really horrible disease to watch someone die from but even more so when you know you could very well be dealing with it yourself in the future.
Which is the life struggle of Rose. Rose is 17, she's watching her mother wither away and become a stranger because of this disease, and while being a teenager full of angst and attitude, she's having to reconcile that some of the things her mother says or does isn't really here- it's the disease. Which, let's be real, if your mother randomly shouted hurtful things to you, your first thought isn't that it's the disease talking, you are trying to not internalize whatever said as truth about you in the eyes of your own mother.
It's a tough deck of cards to deal with.
But also, Rose meets Caleb at a local fundraising walk event for people with incurable diseases. Caleb's mother and twin sisters have sickle cell, equally horrible and difficult to manage, and the two form a friendship which then turns into a romance. Rose, not knowing what her fate is going to be, decides that once she turns 18 she's going to take the test to see if she has Huntington's because she's convinced that will help her make the decisions she needs to about college in the fall, her career, what life path she's going to take. She doesn't want to fall in love and eventually saddle someone down with having to care for her which she thinks would cause that person to resent her. Because while her dad is still caring for her mother, she's sure that if he could choose differently, he would have.
I won't tell you any more because it basically would ruin the book for you but what I can tell you is that Rose makes decisions, and then different ones, and things kind of work out. And I say kind of because while we know what she's going to do come fall, and we have closure and ending on some things, we are left kind of with a cliff hanger. Enough that I really wanted to know. I wanted more answers at the end of the book but then I got annoyed because really- it's like we've come full circle. It's really the ending I wanted all along, and then we get it and I'm annoyed.
I'm as bad as teenager Rose.
But I really liked this book. As infuriating as Rose was for most of the book, and she really comes off as a selfish brat unable to look past her own problems or put them into perspective, she's written really well because isn't that how teenagers are? I mean, I wasn't- I was a perfect kid, obviously. (Ha!) I'll have to give this book 4 out of 5 stars because it is one I'd recommend to people as a fast and interesting read that makes you ask yourself- would you want to know? If you could know how you were going to die, or how much time you had left to be "normal-ish", would you want to know?
I'm not sure. Maybe it's meant to be a surprise for a reason?
You can purchase your own copy of Rules for 50/50 Chances on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. In the meantime, you can find more information about the author, Kate McGovern, on her website and follow her on Twitter!