Last January, when I’d just finished a few other books, I decided to look around for another young adult novel to read that’s about a subject I’m interested in. I stumbled upon Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern. The book sounded interesting enough, so I bought it and started reading. Due to some other interests demanding their time from me, I didn’t finish it till yesterday. This review may contain spoilers.
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.
Pretty early in the book, I found out who the boy from the similarly flawed genetic pool mentioned in the synopsis is. His mother and sisters have sickle cell disease, but he doesn’t carry “the gene”. There’s where McGovern puts a glaringly obvious medical inaccuracy in the book, that is, that sickle cell is a dominantly inherited disease. There is no mention of the boy’s father being a carrier of the disease and sickle cell is compared to recessive diseases at least once. For those who don’t know, sickle cell is a recessive disease, meaning you need two copies of the gene to get the disease. I happen to know because I once read that people who carry one copy of the gene don’t get sickle cell disease and have the added luck of not getting sick when infected with malaria. That’s why sickle cell is more common among Black people than among Whites or other races. Yes, I did look it up to be sure. This huge medical inaccuracy spoils the entire book for me. That’s probably me though, being autistic and having a special interest in medicne.
Now that we got this out of the way, I have to say the book is otherwise quite good. It is a little predictable at times, but there are still enough twists and turns for the book to remain interesting. The author goes into detail sometimes, which I like – but which is also why said medical inaccuracy annoys me. I love getting to know the main character really well. Rose is not just a girl whose mother has Huntington’s. She’s a true round character. I also got a glimpse into the world of Huntington’s (obviously), sickle cell, ballet, and as a added bonus, the California zephyr train ride. Love trains.
Title: Rules for 50/50 Chances
Author: Kate McGovern
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: November 2015