“Life still happens the way it’s going to happen, with its instantaneous, irrevocable shifts, and you can’t stop them so there’s no point in even thinking about them. Unfortunately for me, that message hasn’t sunken in very well.”
Title: Rules for 50/50 Chances
Author: Kate McGovern
Publication: November 24th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Publisher at ALA Annual
Summary From Goodreads:
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.
Rules for 50/50 Chances is an eye opener of a book. Not only does it tackle hard hitting and heartbreaking issues of genetic diseases within families and how it can change everything, it also brings to light issues of race, desire, and what it means to make one’s own choices. The magic of Rules For 50/50 Chances is a subtle one – one that won’t hit you until you’re finished and thinking back on what you’ve just read. I am so grateful I got the chance to read this book – trust me, you’re going to want to grab a copy as soon as you possibly can. It’s worth it.
This book is about a girl named Rose who is living with the possibility of being diagnosed with Huntingtons disease. Her mother has it, is living with it, and therefore, Rose has almost a fifty/fifty chance of getting it herself. Prior to starting this book, I had never heard of Huntingtons before. I’d heard of some of the other genetic diseases, like Sickle Cell. The majority of this book is Rose trying to figure out whether or not she wants to take the test so that she can learn if she will develop the genetic mutation that would lead to her ending up like her mother. Not only is her decision a difficult one, the process is stacked against her. Think about it for a second, if you had the chance to know you would develop cancer or some other disease, would you take it? Is knowing you are going to die worse than not knowing?
Rose was a very interesting character. She’s a dancer, a ballerina to be exact. It was awesome. This book focuses heavily on the impact of genetic disease in a family, but there was also a lot of dance and focus on making your own choices. Some of my favorite scenes were when Rose was dancing, thinking about how she loved to dance, and watching the ballet. Dance is such an integral part of her life – and it is partially the reason she wants to take the test. Like I said, Rose was very interesting. She is stubborn, strong willed, but also very fragile and seemingly in need of attention. To be completely honest, despite how much I loved this book I have no idea if I actually really like Rose. She doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that other people have stuff going on in their lives, she’s always constantly playing the one-up game with those around her. She just doesn’t seem very empathetic, it’s just “me, me, me” all the time. Surprisingly, my startling dislike of the main character in no way affected how I feel about the book as a whole. She was the driving force, sure, but even with what I didn’t like about her she still told a captivating and gut-wrenching story.
The relationships in this book are vivid, intense, and extremely emotional. The ones that tore me up the most was Rose’s relationships with her mother and father – her mother most of all. It ripped me into little, tiny pieces. Seeing Rose’s reaction to her mother’s degeneration was horrible – I think I had to put the book down multiple times to let myself cry.
Now, you’ll have surely noticed by now that I didn’t bring up the romance aspect of this book – but I did that for a specific reason. The romance is there, but it isn’t really important to the story in the same way that Rose’s personal journey is. Also, I feel like the romance between Rose and Caleb causes more problems than it does good things. On top of that, it almost felt like it was a second thought – like it was hastily added in. The relationship was adorable at times, but it just didn’t feel genuine enough to hit as hard as it should have.
There is one part that bothered me. Rose sort of shocked me right from the get go. Her first reaction – I’m talking about ten pages into the book – when she meets Caleb is shock at the fact he is black. I mean, I get it, but that’s such a strange thing to focus on when you first meet a person – being surprised that an African American was participating in a walk for genetic disease. It wouldn’t have stood out to me so much, if it didn’t become a reoccurring theme throughout the book. It was handled beautifully, don’t get me wrong, but it made me sort of dislike Rose in a way that’s hard to describe. It wasn’t just Rose, though – and that’s the strange part. Both Rose and Caleb are extremely judgmental, especially towards each other. I don’t know what it was about the two of them, but this was one couple I could not get behind and ship. It just went downhill for them after their first date.
Overall, Rules for 50/50 Chances is an emotional train ride that you won’t want to miss. Despite some of the things that bothered me, the book itself was an amazing journey through what it’s like to have to choose whether or not you want to know how and when you are going to die. It is about the unbreakable bonds of family and the different stages of love and friendship. This book is a delightfully heart breaking contemporary that you won’t want to miss.