My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First Published: January 2nd, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Siblings, Contemporary Romance, High School, Disease, Music, First Love, Family Drama
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon. But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules. When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive. These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?
Not many know this, but my father died from cancer when I was a baby. I don’t remember anything about him. All I know is what I’ve been told and what I’ve seen in family pictures.
Like Tovah and Adina, who underwent a genetic test for Huntington’s disease, my brother and I could get tested to see if we risk developing leukemia, like our father did, but because our family prefers not to dwell on the past, this isn’t something I’ve thought about before.
Until I read this book. What if my brother and I do get tested, and one of us discovers that they carry the gene and are at high risk of developing it? Will it change the relationship we have today, will it make us look at the world, and each other, differently? What if both of us will develop it in the future?
These are questions that are explored in this story. It is a captivating story that I had no problem visualizing and be emotionally-invested in. The characters are three-dimensional, but there is one sister I was able to connect with more than the other: Tovah. She is smart, ambitious, empathetic—I saw myself in her.
Adina, while a realistic teenager, is selfish. She falls for her viola teacher, and she doesn’t realize that there’s something not quite right about it. It gives her a thrill to do things behind other people’s backs. She doesn’t tell anyone about them, and although she tries at times to rebuild the connection that crumbled years ago with her fraternal twin, she isn’t trying very hard. Not only that, but she is self-destructive, taking the revelation of her developing Huntington’s in the future very, very seriously.
As she should. But she knows this affects her deeply, and still, she doesn’t seek help or has a long conversation about it with her family or someone she trusts. She sticks to the usual, ‘‘I tested positive but I’m dealing with it,’’ or blatantly lying about her mental health. This is not how I, personally, would have reacted and behaved if I had gotten such bad news, and she is only two years younger than I am.
A poignant story, but it’s hard not to judge Adina’s self-destructive behaviour, especially when she has such a loving family that is always there for her, and a sibling who is willing to reconnect. And of course, this made me start to think seriously about what runs in my family and if a visit to the doctor is long-overdue.
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