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Pretty Is What Changes: Impossible Choices, the Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny
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Pretty Is What Changes: Impossible Choices, the Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  502 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Faced with the BRCA mutation—the so-called “breast cancer gene”—one woman must answer the question: When genetics can predict how we may die, how then do we decide to live?

Eleven months after her mother succumbs to cancer, Jessica Queller has herself tested for the BRCA gene mutation. The results come back positive, putting her at a terrifyingly elevated risk of developi
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2008)
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I was excited about this book for two reasons. One, it's authored by a writer from Gilmore Girls, one of the most well-written television shows ever aired. Two, it's about a 30-something New Yorker who faces her risk of breast cancer, which like me, is around 90%. I wanted the combination of BRCA information, personal anecdote, and good writing to help me sort through a few things in my own life.

I was disappointed by this book for two reasons. One, the writing was not what one would expect of s
I think I was expecting too much from this book. I'm fascinated by the idea that someone would chop off their boobs to prevent cancer, but this book falls a little short of those expectations - which is sad because she did write for the Gilmore Girls, which was a well-written show....

The beginning chronicles her mother's fight against cancer, to set up the tension when she learns of her BRCA1 mutation. But it never gives the caliber of the information that I want.... but then again it's a fuzzy
Jessica Queller has composed an extremely well written book. It is filled with educational facts and inspiring personal accounts regarding a very serious issue - breast cancer. The book was not as emotional as I expected it to be which, to me, illustrated that she is such a strong woman that it carried over into her writing. This is a great book club read as it brings up many questions that will stimulate discussion. This book has opened a whole new literary world for Jessica Queller, that goes ...more
I loved this book. I loved her style of writing, its kind of a no-nonsense approach. It was obvious that she lived a very privileged life and I thought she did a good job of incorporating it, but not flaunting it. As a mother and someone who saw her sister battle cancer, I know exactly what my decision would be if I tested positive for the BRCA mutation. However, I can empathize with her situation as a single woman with no children. I commend her for taking her destiny into her own hands.
Jun 05, 2008 Lauren rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who can related to an experience with breast cancer
Although the somewhat simplistic writing style left something to be desired from the critic in me, this autobiographical book about Jessica Queller's struggle with learning she has the "breast cancer gene" and deciding how to proceed is as riveting as if you were reading a novel about your own girlfriend. I especially enjoyed her dating stories, and the intensity brought from the fact that she was single, in her 30s, and wanting to have a family.
I am a 32 year old and a 1 year Breast Cancer Survivor so this book hit close to home for me. I had to take this book chapter by chapter and in stages to read. It took me awhile to read all of this because it was very emotional for me. My Mom passed away from Ovarian Cancer , at the age of 54, just like the author's mother did & I could relate with the stories she shared about her mother. It was pretty eerie reading through the book and remembering my mother going through the same stages as ...more
The subject matter of this book made for a difficult read, but I was really curious about the author's journey. After watching her mother die of cancer, the author took a test to find out that she was positive for a mutated gene that caused an increase in her chance of getting breast cancer. She had to make a difficult decision as to have preventative surgery to lower her risk. It was definitely one of those books where I wanted to cry at certain points, just to let off some of the pressure--I c ...more
This review has been crossposted from my blog at The Cosy Dragon . Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me, which appear on a timely schedule.

Jessica has just received the news that she has a breast cancer gene that gives her an 80%+ chance of getting cancer. It's given to her in the baldest way possible, yet it will change her life radically.

I've got a vested interest in reading this novel. It's part fiction, part fact, and it hits close to home. I have a family history of reproductiv
Jun 03, 2008 Alissa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lesley
Really great idea for a book, but I wish I could rewrite whole chapters for the author and ship them back to her in a box marked, "JUST A SUGGESTION."
PRETTY IS WHAT CHANGES by Jessica Queller chronicles the intertwining journey of Jessica's mother's death from complications of ovarian cancer, as the result of her first bout of breast cancer, and Jessica's discovery of inheriting the breast cancer gene and the difficult decisions she must face as the result of her knowledge.

When Jessica learns about the genetic test for the breast cancer gene, she decides to get tested to put her mind at ease. But she tests positive for BRCA-1 and her life spi
Couldn't put the book down. Well-written and quickly paced.

It captures the uncertainty of dealing with breast cancer risk, BRCA testing, and the process of making decisions after a positive test in an honest way. The author didn't flinch from telling a three-dimensional story: the testing affected her romantic relationships, familial relationships and friendships. I appreciated how many different breast cancer and ovarian cancer stories are woven in (from women Jessica knows or meets during her
I admire Jessica Queller for many reasons, most of all because as she was going through the hell that is BRCA testing and making the decision to pursue prophylactic measures she worked her decisions out by writing and consulting many, many, many people. Most people do not do this. They take one physicians opinion and that's what they do. Most people do not question as much as Jessica Queller did.

Granted, she had good reason to ask so many questions after watching her own mother suffer through b
Angela Smith
I thought I would like this book better. It was written by a woman in her mid 30s, who discovered that she had the breast cancer gene. The book chronicles her life as she learns to accept the diagnosis and what it means, and through her decision to have prophylactic mastecomy and reconstruction. Because of my personal connection to the topic, I thought I would be really moved by the book (I heard about it on NPR a few weeks ago and couldn't wait to read it). But the author really bothered me. I ...more
I think this memoir is better served for people for people who haven't had the option to forego cancer or fight like hell if it does come along. I was diagnosed at 26 and didn't have the $30,000 it would take to harvest and freeze my eggs in case I later wanted a surrogate mom for the lil munchkins. Which I didn't think I would want to do anyways. She had the option of having children and then removing her ovaries. Her breasts had to go. For me, since I had been through chemo and watched countle ...more
Jan 22, 2012 Ellyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
In this memoir, the author tells of her mother's painful death from cancer and her own discovery that she carries the BRCA1 mutation, or the "breast cancer gene," making it highly likely that she will develop breast cancer at a young age and ovarian cancer at some point in her life. Jessica is 34, single, and hoping to marry and have children, and she struggles with the options available to her: frequent screenings, with the hope of catching the disease as early as possible and treating it, or m ...more
This book made me cry, I'll admit it. The author's mother struggles with breast cancer and then, years later, is diagnosed with aggressive ovarian cancer which ultimately kills her. Almost on a whim Jessica decides to get tested for the so-called "breast cancer gene" and finds out she carries it, which gives her a shockingly high chance of getting breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. In her early thirties, uninvolved, but really wanting to get married and have children, Jessica struggles with he ...more
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Sep 29, 2008 amber marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
a memoir of a woman who tested postive for the gene which can cause breast and ovarian cancer. her mother died of ovarian cancer just the year before she learned this news. it sounds like this existential reflection on science, knowing perhaps "too much" about yourself, and what it means to be pretty in a society wrapped up in bra sizes. in the end she gets a double mastectomy and decides to have a child on her own (she is 38 and will get her ovaries removed when she is 40). i'm intruiged by thi ...more
Kim Destratis
Really great personal story about a topic just about every woman has been touched by in one way or another. I feel like this book gave me greater insight into the decisions some friends already face. I also think that as general cancer research continues to make strides, it may be a situation that will be presented to us all when they can start testing for all cancer genes. Queller does a great job talking about the crazy situation she unintentionally found herself in without making my brain hur ...more
This book was recommended to me by my surgeon after I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It answers a lot of questions I have had as well as made me feel comfortable about my decisions for treatment.

Jessica watches her mom battle breast and then lose her battle with Ovarian Cancer. Because of her family history she is tested for the BRCA gene and finds out she's positive. This book highlights her life and decision to have an elective double mastectomy. Her concern is that she's young, single and
First I have to say that I recommend this to anyone thinking of having the testing for the BRCA gene. Second the account of her mom's illness was very moving and very real. Paints a very candid picture of what cancer does to a human being- even with treatment. I felt like she brushed over the actual mastectomy part as well as the recovery. I related to the dilemma of what to do with a positive test and maybe she had a more positive experience than most but it seemed like once she made the decisi ...more
I just happened to pick this up at the library, without having ever heard of it, and I was extremely pleased. I was thrilled to find out in the very beginning that the author was one of the writers for Gilmore Girls, probably my favorite TV show ever. So she can obviously write well and has a sense of humor. Which she definitely needs to deal with what goes on in this true story about her life. She deals bluntly and openly with her decision about whether or not to "cut off her boobs" as a preven ...more
Becky Roper
This is an autobiographical story of a young screenwriter who finds out she has a BRCA (breast cancer) gene mutation which predisposes her to a high risk of breast and ovarian cancers. I read it because of my own personal adventures with this, but I didn't really enjoy it much. She spent way too much time retelling her history with her mother who had breast cancer and ultimately died of ovarian cancer. This consumes at least half the book. I expected a screenwriter to leave out a lot of the "flu ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a family member who has/had breast and/or ovarian cancer.
Recommended to Lisa by: Sue and Steph
If you have ever read,"The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy", you will get the drift of the style of this book. The subject matter is however not a happy one - like being pregnant - so the light and "real girl" style at times may feel a bit shallow. But I can't imagine being able to read a "really real" account of this story. It would be too tough.

Rarely, a book mirrors your own life so closely that it shakes you to the core. For me, this is the book.

Jessica Queller took me on a journey through he
Mar 29, 2008 M rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all women
The subject matter is understandably tough: a young single woman first loses her mother to cancer and then tests positive for the breast cancer gene. I admit I first wanted to read this book partly because of Queller's background as a TV writer. I thought there might be some fun stories in there somewhere about writing for teen dramas/dramadies (which there were) but the honesty and simplicity with which she marrates the book makes it addicting. Once you're in it (if you're a woman, that is, and ...more
I couldn't put this book down and finished it within one afternoon. As of the moment, cancer is pretty much everywhere. Wherever you look on the TV, someone's had it, someone just got it and someone's dying from it (an acquaintance just passed away and now a friend's mom is currently suffering from cancer) so this book really hit close to home and is in fact very scary.

Jessica wrote beautifully and I loved her sense of humour. I don't in one second doubt that she used to write for Gilmore Girls
Jessica Queller's story is compelling, and her choice to be tested for the BRCA "breast cancer gene,” as well as her painful and controversial decision have a double mastectomy to prevent the breast cancer that would likely kill her, is courageous and thought-provoking. My two critiques of the memoir have to do with her underdeveloped writing (which relies entirely on an “and then” chronological approach to narrative) and her incessant need to drop the names of famous friends (Calista Flockhart ...more
This book has personal meaning for me. My maternal grandmother died of ovarian cancer in her early 50's and my mother had breast cancer in her mid 40's. My mom was urged to get tested for the BRCA genetic mutation and tested positive, which explains where her cancer came from. My sister then decided to get tested and is also positive, leaving her with an 87-90% chance of developing breast cancer and a 44% chance of getting ovarian cancer. I have not yet been tested but reading this book has push ...more
I kind of hate memoirs where people who spent most of their lives enjoying the benefits of a certain privilege (in this case prettiness) suddenly expect people to be like, "OMG THE HORROR" when they discover much too late, that A) it was unearned and B) the world is completely unforgiving without said privilege. I hate that we're supposed to feel sorry for them and believe me, I didn't.

I kept wondering how compelling this novel would be if she were plain looking or DARE I SAY ugly and was facin
I really admired this woman's honesty and bravery in writing about her decision to remove both breasts prophylactically, and later on her ovaries too. She went down this path a mere 5 years ago as somewhat of a trailblazer, and unfortunately it's becoming a much more common and acceptable option for those who test positive for the BRCA1 gene. Thankfully we DeMond women tested negative, but this story hit a little too close to home given my female relatives' familiarity with this insidious diseas ...more
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Pretty Is What Changes: Impossible Choices, The Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny Pretty Is What Changes: Impossible Choices, The Breast Cancer Gene and How I Defied My Destiny

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