By Kate McGovern
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (November 24, 2015)
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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.
I have not been as conflicted about a book as I am about Rules for 50/50 Chances. My conflict was if I rate this a 1 star or a 2 star read. I think I will go for 2 stars. This book brings to light serious topics of rare genetic diseases that most people might not know about – particularly Huntington’s Disease. While I like that more and more stories like these are being published, I do not feel this author really did what she should have done –make me care about this story.
The protagonist, Rose, is a 17 year old high school student obsessed with being a ballerina and trying to figure out what to do after high school. Rose battles with the emotional challenges of trying to figure out if she goes to the college of her dreams or give that up to stay home to take care of her mother, who has been living with Huntington’s Disease for 5 years. The other big challenge Rose faces is if she wants to be tested for the genetic disease her mother is currently battling. While this all sounds like a brilliant story, I found myself struggling throughout this entire read. I wanted to like it and I tried, but it just did not happen.
This story moved at such a slow pace for me. My mind started to wander when the author chose to spend three pages explaining how Rose cooked chicken noodle soup from scratch, and devote 2.5 pages to the fact that Rose’s mom liked to print pictures of trains from travel websites. Neither of those two topics had anything to do with the overall story but the author felt it was necessary to fill pages with unnecessary fluff. I felt the author spent too much time explaining the mundane details and not enough on developing the characters.
The other big part of the story that bothered me immensely was the author’s need to bring race into the story. Yes, I understand how race can play an important part in a good story but here it did not do any justice. I do not see why Rose had to keep focusing on the fact that she was a white Jewish teenager and the boy she had a crush on was black. She also talked a lot about how her best friend was Asian and used the slur “the Asian” a lot. What difference does that make to the plot of this story? This is supposed to be a novel about rare genetic diseases, not interracial dating or races in general. To me it was pointless and actually really upset me. On top of that, Rose did not come across as an empathetic person at all. She whined a lot and made it seem as if her life is worse than everyone else’s life. She makes her life miserable on her own; nobody is doing that to or for her.
Overall, this was not a horrible book but it is not something I am going to recommend to people, unless they can look past the items above. This was a 2 star read for me.