Brooke Shirts's Reviews > This Full House

This Full House by Virginia Euwer Wolff
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's review
May 03, 2009

really liked it
Read in March, 2009

A sastisfying conclusion to Wolff's Make Lemonade trilogy, although I didn't find it quite as electrifying as its predecessors. Wolff's voices are as eloquent and raw as before, but in the desire to wrap up all possible plot threads, the story suffered. LaVaughn's bigger-than-life mother is sadly relegated to the sidelines, although Jolly, Jilly, and Jeremy have a bigger starring role.

LaVaughn is a high school senior, and enrolled in a special extracurricular program called Women in Medical Science that is headed by a neurosurgeon at the local hospital. By a rather creaky coincidence, LaVaughn also believes that she has found the woman who may be teenage mom Jolly's mother. She decides to risk her college plans by surreptitiously performing a matrimony test using pilfered DNA and university equipment.

The results of the test, and LaVaughn's actions afterwards, don't turn out as she expected. Her intentions were innocent: to bring together people who should love each other, but was it worth risking her future?

My husband is a geneticist, so of course I had to get his input on this book: how plausible is it that a couple of seventeen-year-olds would be able to sequence DNA in a college lab by themselves?

After reading the central passages describing the test, he said this: it's entirely likely that nobody would look too closely at what the kids were doing -- this casual trust is part of what he loves about science research -- and Wolff's description of the process is beautifully and clearly written.

However -- there was one crucial omission left out. When sequencing DNA, it is necessary to add "primers" -- triggers that allow scientists to tailor their analysis to a specific section of DNA. Different primers are used for different tests. Not only did Wolff not mention the primer at all, it is unlikely that a university lab would even carry one. Maternity tests are mostly performed by specialized commercial orginizations these days; unless there was a scientist at the university who was conducting research that required maternity tests, it's unlikely that Patrick and LaVaughn would have had access to the primers or analysis software necessary to complete the test. A quibble, really.

Otherwise, the science is A-OK. Whew!

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