Book Review: Rules for 50/50 Chance by Kate McGovern

Posted November 16, 2015 by Stormy in Book Reviews, Books / 2 Comments

Rules for 50/50 Chance

by Kate McGovern

Rules for 50 50 chance

Expected Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
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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.



I have the sinking feeling that Rules for 50/50 Chance is going to get compared to The Fault in our Stars when it releases, which is really a shame. This book is a well-done and engaging look at a teen confronted not with a sure demise, but with the ever-present knowledge that the disease that’s eating away at her mother might one day take her too. The nature of Rose’s quandry makes this book feel both immediate and yet introspective.

When Rose turns eighteen, she’ll legally be an adult. . . which means she can take the test to determine if she’ll one day have Huntington’s Disease. If she does, she’ll have years before the disease starts attacking her. . . but once it does, she’ll slowly lose her ability to move normally, her mental health, and plans for the future. It’s a tough decision that begs the question–if you could know if one day you’ll come down with a disease you can’t do anything about, would you want to know? Would it affect the way you live your life, the things you plan for? How would you react?

Rules for 50/50 Chance doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff, and that’s one of the reasons it gutted me. More than once I found myself tearing up. There are plenty of YA books about teens facing deadly diseases, and plenty of YA books about teens with parents facing deadly diseases, but Rules for 50/50 Chance felt so fresh and different, partially because of the genetic nature of the disease depicted. Reading about Rose interacting with her mother was often heartbreaking. Rose cares deeply for her mother, but at times resents their situation in life, a position I found understandable. The fact that Rose knows she might one day inherit her mother’s disease makes it all the more complex and messy, but utterly full of heart.

The main conflict of this novel centers around Rose’s decision about taking the genetic test, but at times it was actually less of a focus than I expected. . . which I liked. I knew, from the summary, there would be a romance, but I didn’t expect it to play such a large part. That can always be hit-or-miss with me, especially in contemporary YA, but I actually LOVED this romance. There’s plenty of conflict without it being petty drama, and it’s clear why Rose and Caleb are drawn to each other, as they both have family members with genetic diseases(though not the same one). I applaud the book especially for acknowledging the interracial aspect and having Rose and Caleb have frank discussions about race.



I thoroughly enjoyed this thoughtful, exploratory book about Rose and the difficult decision she faces throughout it. It’s one that I would recommend to any fan of contemporary YA that’s on the more serious side, and I could see how this one could have cross-over appeal too. It made me FEEL, which is often the highest praise I think a book can get. 4/5 cupcakes. 



4 Stars

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2 responses to “Book Review: Rules for 50/50 Chance by Kate McGovern

  1. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Rules for 50/50 Chances! It’s just very well-written, and quite interesting in terms of theme, and I just enjoyed Rose a lot as a character (even when she frustrated me). Glad you liked this one too!

    • Stormy

      Yes, agreed! The characters and themes were really well done. Even when Rose was annoying, I always felt sympathetic to her plight, because how could you not?

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