Rules for 50 50 Chances

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Author: Kate McGovern
Release date: November 24, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 352
Formats: Hardcover, eBook



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.


NOTE: This review is based on a finished copy I received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

The Review

RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES gives you a lot to think about both during and after the read. It poses the question – if you could find out whether you had a debilitating and ultimately fatal illness, would you want to know? It touches upon a number of issues from the loss of a parent to illness, to caring for and living with family members who are ill, to race, to class, to anger, frustration, guilt, sacrifice, and love. And it does so through a narrator who is at the cusp of starting her life as an adult, who has faced and will continue to face a number of challenges, who is anxious and upset and scared and uncertain.

Rose Levenson has lived for years with the knowledge that she would lose her mother to Huntington’s disease. She knew that she would have to live with the angry, uncensored person her mother would become. And she knew that there was a good chance that her mother’s fate would be hers.

For years she tried to bury her head in the sand and not think about the “what ifs.” But the not knowing cast a shadow over her entire life, it was all she could think about, and it affected every decision she made or chose not to make. Everyone told her that she had to live her life, to not think about a future that may or may not be hers. But how could she risk making choices she might regret? How could she risk falling in love and putting them through what her father was going through? How could she give up the possibility of knowing that she had absolutely nothing to worry about at all?

Kate McGovern created a story that is engaging, thought-provoking, heartbreaking and yet hopeful, with a character who is often difficult to like but whose actions and reactions are understandable and very realistic for someone her age, in her situation. Rose is short-tempered, self-involved, fearful, nervous, and a bit obsessive, though she can also be funny, kind, and open-minded. Her situation is one readers will be able to sympathize with, even if they don’t always find her to be sympathetic.

The author did a wonderful job of giving readers a better understanding of what life might be like living with a family member who has Huntington’s disease and what it might be like to struggle with the decision to know or not know whether the disease is a part of their future. But in attempting to tackle a number of other issues, including the challenges of an interracial relationship, the challenges facing two people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and hinting at a physically abusive relationship, as well as trying to introduce a number of diverse characters, things fell a bit short.

By introducing and only lightly touching upon those other issues raised, they felt underserved and largely unresolved. And while the idea of incorporating diverse characters into the story was exciting, the fact of their diversity at times felt like an afterthought instead of feeling organic to the story. Trying to take on so many hard-hitting issues that were secondary to the main storyline diluted them. The focal point of the story provided plenty of food for thought. It was interesting. It was informative. It was eye-opening. It was so well-done.

Kate McGovern did not pull any punches when showing readers what life was like for Rose over the many months of her life the story encompassed. It was difficult. It was ugly. It was confusing. It was embarrassing. It was unpredictable. It was devastating.

RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES is an important story that brings awareness to a disease that is not often written about, especially not in young adult literature. It will give readers an appreciation for those who have to live with this illness. And it will put them in Rose’s shoes and make them wonder whether they would choose as she did.

The Rating


About Kate McGovern


Kate McGovern has written both fiction and nonfiction for the educational market, and has taught theatre, literacy, and creative writing to kids in Boston, New York, and London. She received her bachelor’s in American Studies from Yale. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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