Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by Macmillan on November 24th 2015
Format: ARC (352 pages) • Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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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 will tell 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 going to ballet school 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 in California, Rose begins to question her carefully-laid rules.
This was a pleasant surprise! I have a tendency of signing up for ARC tours for books I’m kind of in the mood for, but never really want to read them when I have to. Struggles of being a mood reader, I suppose. Regardless, I was able to knock this one out in pretty much three sittings over the course of two days. I think this story is really unique overall, and I would definitely recommend it to people who aren’t familiar with Huntington’s Disease. Oddly enough, I read one other book series where this rare disease made an appearance, so I already knew a little bit about it.
Rose’s mother has Huntington’s, a degenerative disease that is slowly killing her. The biggest problem is: there’s a 50/50 chance that Rose has it too. Her father is incredibly supportive, helpful, and loving towards his deteriorating wife. He was easily my favorite part of this story.
This book deals with alllll of Rose’s struggles. She is a ballet dancer trying to decide where to go to college, if she can allow herself to fall in love, and if she should take the test for the Huntington’s gene. Lots going on for this girl. I felt bad for her because of all of these things, but my sympathy for her dried up surprisingly quickly. She had a “why me” attitude about everything, which is understandable, but she was constantly comparing her family’s issues to everyone else’s. No one else was allowed to have small problems because hers were bigger. People like that annoy me, and she was no exception a lot of the time. It was kind of horrible how she treated Caleb, the love interest whose family has Sickle Cell Anemia, because she belittled his issues. Again, I get that she was dealt a rough hand… but she didn’t have the rights to ALL of the sadness and pain in the world. I didn’t get a lot of feels for this couple, mostly because I didn’t see what Caleb saw in her with all of the doom and gloom. Every decision in her life went back to Huntington’s, which, again, makes sense, but STILL. Wouldn’t she realize she needs to just live her life at some point, or find out if she has it first? (More on that later.) I liked their banter, which happened a lot in the beginning, but overall I wasn’t totally invested in the two of them. Sad. I did love, though, that it was an interracial relationship. Rose was Jewish, Caleb was African American, and her best friend (Lena) was Asian. I loved the diversity (especially with the rare gene diseases too).
The biggest issue for me with this book was the whole struggle of taking the test. Rose finds out that she can take the test to determine if she carries the Huntington’s gene. She hems and haws over whether or not she should take it, while refusing to live her life properly. She didn’t want to get too attached to Caleb and fall in love or make a decision about college because MAYBE she has the disease. Okay, if you’re going to let the uncertainty impact your life as if you DO have it, why don’t you just take the fucking test to find out? I know that it’s difficult and probably feels like a death sentence – because you can’t un-know once you know – but wouldn’t it make more sense to just do it? Don’t let it affect your life if you don’t know for sure if you have it or not! For me, this was no-brainer. I know if I were in her shoes, it would probably be different and harder, but it just didn’t feel that way for me. I would easily take the test so I could plan accordingly. If you find out you don’t have it, you can stop worrying about it all the time. If you find out you do have it, you can put SO much more life in your years! It’s like the song/saying goes, live like you’re dying! I won’t give spoilers about if she takes the test or finds out anything, but the way that whole thing wrapped up definitely bugged me.
All ranting aside, I did enjoy this book overall. It’s probably surprising because I didn’t like the main character and kind of the main issue in the book, but everything else was great. I loved the Boston setting, the families (both Caleb’s and Rose’s), and the focus on the future and college. Rose has some tough decisions to make about school – should she attend her dream school in California, or go somewhere local to be close to her mom? – and it was relatable. I decided to stay close-ish to home because of my boyfriend at the time, even though my dream was to attend school in North Carolina. I loved my college experience, but wish I took a chance on going far away from home (especially because that relationship ended by the third week I was at school…). Anyways, I understand most of her struggle with that. I was happy with her decision in the end honestly, because she did what she thought was best and made the most sense for her.
The themes of family responsibility and love, taking risks for bigger gains, and making hard decisions are ALL definitely relatable for teens that may read this. Plus, you learn about an uncommon, incurable disease, which is definitely eye-opening.Dahlia Adler
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by Spencer Hill on November 17th 2015
Also by this author: Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights, Last Will and Testament, Right of First Refusal, Out On Good Behavior, His Hideous Heart
Format: eARC (348 pages) • Source: Author
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Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.
Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.
One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.
As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.
THIS BOOK WAS GREAT. I mean, I’ve come to expect that from Dahlia, to be honest. I love her characters and REAL writing style. Let me count the ways I loved this book.
1. Diversity and interracial romance
I crave interracial romance. Maybe it’s because I’m in one myself, but I’ve come to realize how much I love them in books. AND not only was there one interracial couple, there were two! Also, this happened because it’s so true:
@bookmarklit Hahahaha good for you on both counts 😉
— Dahlia Adler (@MissDahlELama) November 8, 2015
~Anyways~ I loved that “diverse” characters weren’t just thrown in for the sake of diversity; they had full backstories and complex feelings about their backgrounds. Everyone felt so real. I grew up in a 98% white high school and my boyfriend was one of three Asian people. I feel like Chris would relate a lot to Vic being the only Mexican person. Even side characters (like Jamie, mentioned above) had fleshed out personalities and feelings. It was fantastic. Even beyond ethnic diversity, there was socioeconomic diversity. Reagan lives in a trailer park and Victoria had two parents who were professors. They were on opposite ends of the spectrum (not only with money but with family dynamics/closeness). I could probably go on and on about this element, but there are so many other great things to share.
2. FRIENDSHIP FEELS
I loved the connection between Reagan and Victoria. I shipped their friendship more than the romantic relationships, to be honest. I loved the ways they bonded with each other even if they were very, very different. They found a way to make their friendship work no matter what and made it through quite a few lows together. They had that kind of relationship where you could call the person at 3 AM with a problem and they would help you, even if you were in the middle of a fight. *cough*
The entire premise of the book centers around the girls going on different college visits around their state, trying to figure out where they’re going to go next year. They plan on attending the same school even though they’re going for very different majors. I liked reading about them exploring each school and trying to figure out if it would be a good fit for both of them. The end of the “what college will I / we go to?” question was very well-done. I was happy for the girls and the decisions they made for their futures. Some things are more important than…other things. I don’t want to spoil what happens! I wish more books had a heavier college focus.
As for flaws? Overall, I feel like some of the issues and conversations were repetitive. There was a lot going on with their families and their futures, but they had a lot of the same problems over and over again. But, it was a fantastic story and I really loved reading about these characters.