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Rules for 50/50 Chances

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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 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.

351 pages, Kindle Edition

First published November 24, 2015

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About the author

Kate McGovern

2 books66 followers
Kate McGovern is the author of Rules for 50/50 Chances, which was called a “standout contemporary read” by Booklist. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a house full of books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 177 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews786 followers
July 5, 2019
“If you had a crystal ball, like in a fairy tale – or a magic mirror or one wish or whatever – would you want to know how you were going to die? Would you want to watch it happen, in slow motion, every day? My mother is my crystal ball.”

This is my third fiction title this year about Huntington’s disease – Inside the O'Briens being the first and You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone the second. While it is my least favorite of the three, it is still a very good book.

17-year-old Rose Levenson’s mother is slowly dying from Huntington’s disease. Her erratic movements, loss of decision-making ability, and mood swings are very difficult on her family. Knowing that she has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene creates a lot of anxiety for Rose.

Coupled with the anxiety and uncertainty Rose experiences are typical problems faced by a teenager her age – pressure to succeed, decisions about education, and navigating the minefield of friendships and relationships. It is completely understandable that Rose was not a very likable character considering all the pressures on her. Still, it was difficult to spend a lot of time with her. Her self-centeredness, competitiveness (my pain is worse than yours), shortsightedness and negativity grated on my nerves. Fortunately, it was her kindness, determination and deep love for her family that helped offset these negative qualities.

I love that Rose had a very supportive family and particularly the connection between Rose and her mom over their love of trains. My favorite scene is when Rose takes the California Zephyr to her audition for a scholarship to one of the finest dance schools in the country. It is on this journey where she connects with other people and learns that she is not the only one with problems.

“Maybe that’s what it is. They just have their own stuff, and it’s not any more or less crazy than mine, and we’re all doing what we can.”

The scenery, the train ride, the people, the conversations and the growth Rose experiences were all so palpable that I have been thinking about taking my own cross-country journey by train.

The one thing that fell flat for me was the relationship between Rose and Caleb, whose mom and sister have sickle cell anemia. While the author has included diverse characters and done a decent job exploring the challenges of interracial relationships and class differences, I would have preferred the focus of the story remain on what it is like to live with Huntington’s disease and how it feels to live with the uncertainty of inheriting the disease, which the author has done exceptionally well. I felt the author tried to cover too much and ended up giving short shrift to important topics.

All in all, I am happy I read this and happy with Rose’s decision in the end.
Profile Image for Morris.
964 reviews164 followers
November 19, 2015
I don’t think I’ve ever been as conflicted about a book as I am about “Rules for 50/50 Chances”. It is a solid 3 1/2 but can’t be rounded up to a 4.

The protagonist, Rose, is a ballerina with a mother who is suffering with Huntington’s disease. While I don’t know anyone with Huntington’s and therefore not speaking from experience, I believe the author did a good job of conveying the challenges and emotions it presents to an average family. One of the strongest points of the book is how well-developed the family dynamics are, with each member of the family seeming so real it’s like you know them. I especially enjoyed the family trait of being train buffs, which ultimately led to the reasons why trains are awesome. (Spoiler alert: Trains really are awesome.)

There is also quite a bit of diversity in the book. Caleb, the main male character, is african-american, while Rose’s best friend, Lena, is asian-american. Rose herself is part Jewish. The differences in culture, as well as the differences in the diseases that run in their families, are explored and not ignored as some books tend to do.

That being said, I had two major issues when reading this book. The first is that Rose and Caleb are both somewhat unlikable and judgmental toward each other. In fact, Rose is generally unlikable in almost all of her interactions. While some of it is pointed out, so obviously done purposefully, her irritation level went off the charts for me. Also, I cannot see those two ever developing an actual healthy relationship. The second problem is that it was just too long. Some of it could have been cut and the plot would have run quite a bit more smoothly. As it was I found myself having to force myself to keep reading some parts.

“Rules for 50/50 Chances” is by no means a bad book, and it brings up many important issues and diseases. It’s a good contemporary read for both young and old adults who have a bit of patience for the slow parts and the character flaws.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,727 reviews867 followers
May 16, 2016
3.5 stars

I hate when a book starts out strongly, but peters out as the story continues. It’s disappointing and kind of draining and exactly what happened with this book. For a second there, the witty banter, complex characters and wonderful writing style had me thinking I’d found the contemporary story to rival my favourite, Night Owls. But in the end, I had too many small problems with the story that added up and affected my overall enjoyment: I wasn’t a fan of the MC, the love interest (Caleb) was such a great character, but wasn’t given the attention and development he needed to really shine, and the plot didn’t focus nearly enough on Rose’s ballet career for my liking.

Ultimately, this story was raw, emotional, hard-hitting and thoughtful – which is why it is going to one of those stories that sticks with me. I loved the portrayal of family, and the exploration of free will and whether knowing how you were going to die would change the way you lived your life. I thought Rose’s obsession with trains was sweet and different. The romance had me smiling, but I needed to know Caleb better before I could by on board with it completely (yes, train pun 100% intended). I did like the general storyline and the writing style stole my breath at times, but I just needed more from Rose and the characters.

I’d definitely recommend this for fans of Things We Know by Heart though.
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,188 reviews1,338 followers
March 10, 2021
Full Review on The Candid Cover

4.5 Stars

Rules for 50/50 Chances is one of the most eye-opening books I’ve read this year. This book talks about rare genetic diseases, some of which I didn’t even know existed, and discusses them in a way that is easy to understand. There is also a calm and understanding main character, and an incredible use of ballet dancing. I suggest that everybody read this book, as I certainly enjoyed it!

Rules for 50/50 Chances definitely taught me a lot about genetic diseases. The main character’s mother has Huntington’s Disease, and her friend’s sisters both have sickle cell. I honestly don’t know much about these diseases, or any genetic disease, actually, so this book really opened my eyes. Kate McGovern explains the details of Huntington’s Disease so well that I really feel like I understand it now. Rules for 50/50 Chances is such a great way to raise awareness!

I loved Rose, the main character in Rules for 50/50 Chances. She is very patient with her mother, even though she is slowly losing her personality and skills. Rose continues to try her best to live her life normally, and continue with extracurriculars, and not spend every moment of the day with her mom. An understanding main character like Rose is the perfect one for a book tackling issues like Huntington’s.

On of my favourite things about Rules for 50/50 Chances is the use of dance. Rose is a dancer, and is actually quite good at it. I loved the descriptions of the ballets that she performs in, and especially appreciated the description of her worn-out ballet clothes. I feel like not many books really acknowledges that ballet is a really tough activity like this one does. Knowing that ballet is really competitive, Rose still auditions for a scholarship to the best dance school in the country! I really loved how this book didn’t focus entirely on Rose’s mom’s disease, like most books, and more about her life and how it is affected.

Rules for 50/50 Chances is a great way to raise awareness for genetic diseases. There is a patient and caring main character, and plenty of ballet dancing. I absolutely recommend this book to everyone, because I learned so much, yet had so much fun reading this book!
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,189 reviews1,020 followers
November 12, 2015

This review was originally posted on It Starts at Midnight
When I saw Rules for 50/50 Chances on Goodreads, I knew I needed it in my life. First, genetic stuff is so fascinating to me. Always has been, and now having a kid with a de novo (which is basically a new mutation, the first in his lineage- meaning his parents don't have it) dominant genetic mutation makes me even more curious. And Huntington's is one of the the worst genetic hands a person can be dealt. The book goes into a good amount of detail, so I won't bore you, but I have read (and seen shows) about people with it, and it is freaking horrific.  It's dominant, which means any child whose parent has it has a fifty percent chance of also having it (hence the title, of course). And since it doesn't usually manifest until after most people would have had children, Rose's parents had no idea they could be having a child with a death sentence. A painful, awful one at that.

So we have Rose, only child to doting parents. Mom has Huntington's, and is spiraling downward, and fast. Rose is going to be graduating soon, needs to decide about college, her future, and of course, the big old "Do I Have Huntington's?" cloud that has been hanging over her head since she was 12. Rose is a ballet dancer, and quite a good one. She'd like to continue with it, but it's hard to find schools that have ballet and college academics. She's found one, but across the country. And there's a boy, and a best friend. We'll get to all that.

I am going to break down each element that I want to talk about and give it a positive (+), negative (-), or neutral (+/-) at the end. Just to help with the overall rating. Plus, YAY, new stuff!

The main character: Rose, our main character, reminds me of myself a bit. She's a worrier, she's a pessimist, and sometimes she pisses off the people around her with her negativity and whining. But I didn't mind that at all, to be honest. Rose has a lot of stuff going on in her life. Yeah, some of it is normal teenager stuff, but her mom is going to die, and she may have the same awful illness that she has watched destroy her mom. So you try to be sunshine and rainbows. I feel like she learns a lot about herself during the book, and this is a very, very good thing. (+)

The family: Rose's family is  the absolute heart of this book. Her mom will break your heart into a million pieces, and her dad will put them back together. Even her grandma is awesome. Not everything is always happy, quite the contrary. But no matter how difficult it all gets, Rose's family is there with her mom, loving each other, and it is freaking beautiful. (So many +++)

The relationship: Caleb is the love interest, and we meet him in like, chapter one. Things I liked about Caleb: the diversity (and the diverse conversations it brings to the table), and his family is awesome as well. But I felt like there wasn't much personality behind Caleb. I didn't "know" him at all. I knew facts, but I had no sense of who he was as a person. And it bugged me (even though it didn't bug Rose) that he refers to her as "HD" (Huntington's Disease) throughout the whole book. Romance at its finest? Also, I didn't like how he treated her sometimes. He liked to talk down to her when she didn't know certain things about Sickle Cell (the condition his mom and sister have) and when she is being a bit irritating. Like, yeah, she was being a pain in the ass for a little bit, but the way he said stuff just bugged me. Also, I didn't feel any chemistry, even when there were kissing scenes and such. (-) 

Rose's journey: I liked that Rose had several decisions to make. Yes, the Huntington's test was a big one, but she also had to make choices about college, and her relationship with Caleb, and her best friend Lena. I will say that I knew how this book would end from page one. I mean, even before that. I hoped it would be different and prove me wrong, but it didn't. So while I liked that Rose was getting to know herself better, I did find it to be pretty predictable.  (+/-)

Trains!!: Yes, trains were big in this book. I loved the symbolism, and I loved their practical use. That's all I am saying about it, but it was a really great addition to the story, in more ways than one. (+)

Bottom Line: I liked this one. It was emotional of course, with amazing family elements and growth of character. There were a few things that were a bit of a turnoff for me, but overall it was quite well done.

*Copy provided for review
Profile Image for Jaime Arkin.
1,432 reviews1,324 followers
January 3, 2016
In Rules for 50/50 Chances we meet 17 year old Rose Levenson. She’s a student, a dancer, a daughter and a friend. She’s also possibly carrying the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease. At the age of 12 her mom was diagnosed and over the years she has seen the way it has changed her once vibrant and loving mother and it scares her. She has a fifty-fifty chance of carrying the mutation herself and she can’t seem to picture a promising future until she knows for sure what it might entail.

Her unease about what her future holds also has her holding back in the relationships in her life. She’s known how draining and hard it is to take care of her mother and the idea that she would put that responsibility on someone else eats at her and so she avoids relationships. That is until she meets Caleb…. A boy whose family is also dealing with genetic anomalies in the form of Sickle Cell. Their connection is immediate and she finds that despite her determination not to fall in love, she’s struggling with keeping Caleb at arm’s length.

This book takes a deeper look at a teen faced with the idea of life and death at a time when anything in the world should be hers for the taking. Rose’s struggle with determining her future path was really the main story here. She’s unsure what her plans after graduation should be, but she has the opportunity to audition for an amazing ballet school, the drawback is that it’s on the other side of the country. She’s also unsure if she should take the test that will possibly predict whether her future will look like her mother’s.

I have to admit that I truly liked Rose, despite her pessimistic attitude about her future. I got it. It made sense that after watching her mom turn into someone she can’t even recognize most days that this would be the one thing that she struggled to get a grasp on. If I was in her situation I don’t know what I would do. Take the test or not, mentally it still would be draining to know that you have a 50% chance of your life turning into this. Was Rose short-sighted? Was she over-dramatic? Did she focus solely on her problems never considering that everyone has something in their own lives? I’d say yes to most of that, but it didn’t make me dislike her in the least.
I think that in part was because this story is told from her point of view.

There were times that Caleb was harsh and even a bit cruel to her, and I was worried that it was going to make me dislike him, (and I’ll be honest, I truly didn’t love him, but more on that in a minute) but by the end of the story I didn’t. I got it. I understood his frustration with Rose and how he truly wanted her to focus on some of the positive in her life.

The relationship in this story was well-done. It’s not going to make you swoon … at least it didn’t for me, but I liked it. We get glimpses of their connection, but I almost feel like experiencing a bit more of the evolution of the relationship would have helped me feel that connection a bit more between them. Caleb was all-in with Rose pretty quickly and not seeing much of the why made it seem pretty abrupt and sudden. That’s not to say it was bad, I just wanted more of the why Rose would tell Caleb something after only knowing him for a short time before she would reach out to the best friend who has weathered ups and downs for years and years if that makes sense. (well it will when you read this!)

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. While it deals with pretty heavy topics, the read itself wasn’t heavy and depressing. McGovern adds some lighthearted moments that really make the story flow well and bring some lightness to a story that could otherwise have dragged me down. I’ll definitely be looking forward to more from McGovern.

Definitely pick this one up if you’re looking for a realistic novel that addresses issues of love, life and death and finding your path in life despite how unclear your future just might be.

Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy of this in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for Tee loves Kyle Jacobson.
2,474 reviews171 followers
July 22, 2015
Rules for 50/50 Chances is one of the most heart wrenching books I have read this year. I have read some real heart wrenches but this book hit home because of what the book was about. I am not sure if you have ever heard of the Disease Huntington's but here is the definition a hereditary disease marked by degeneration of the brain cells and causing chorea and progressive dementia. In essence your body starts to shut down and you lose your mind. So when I was reading this book I cried because it brought up memories of a friend of mine who died from this disease.

Rose knows that she may have a disease that will kill her. She has a 50/50 chance because her mother has it and she is slowly dying. When she turns 18 years old she can take the test to learn if she will have the disease or not. All Rose wants is to go to Ballet school and have love but at the same time she knows that she could have a killer gene slowly killing her.

What should she do? Take the test and find out if she is a walking dead girl? or should she not take the test and go to Ballet school and live a normal life until she gets sick and finds out she has the disease? What would you do in her shoes?
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,248 reviews393 followers
June 1, 2016
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! I got a finished copy of the book for review through YA Books Central and I'd also gotten an ARC directly from the publisher.
Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck
5 (Rose is an Ashkenazi Jew through her mother, Caleb and his family are black)
QUILTBAG: 1 (Rose meets a gay couple in passing on a train; minor)
Disability: 5 (Rose’s mother has Huntington’s and Rose may share the gene; Caleb’s family has the sickle cell anemia gene and his mother as well as his sisters have the disease)
Intersectionality: 4 (lots of minor characters who come from various intersections of identity as well as the above)

Some books, you can churn a review out for right after finishing them if reviewing stuff is your jam. Others need a little more time. Rules for 50/50 Chances needed to sit in my brain and cook for three months before I found any words for it. It happens! That’s not a bad thing, though. It’s a book that you should take your time with and appreciate.

Though the book isn’t 100% romance, the romance is one of the best things about the book. It’s not super swoony if that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, Caleb and Rose fight quite a bit over the course of the book. What gets me is how real it feels. For all I know, a couple like Caleb and Rose went to high school with me and I missed it while being oblivious! Their nicknames for each other (he calls her HD, she calls him Sickle Cell) is adorable in a morbid sort of way that works without being pretentious.

Rose’s love of ballet and dancing in general was fabulous, which makes her position that much more terrifying. She goes to ballet, puts in her hardest work in order to have a future as a professional dancer, and goes home to see what Huntington’s has done to her mother–and what it will do to Rose herself later in life if she has the gene. It’s a 50/50 chance, as the title says, and that makes planning for the future hard on Rose. Even with this dark cloud hanging over the head of her and her family, there are still good times. McGovern does a wonderful job depicting all the difficulties and small joys if life in a family wherein someone is debilitated by illness.

However, it’s not the most compelling book. It took me twelve days to read for no reason other than the story’s inability to make me want to come back for more very quickly. Rose is a difficult narrator to get the story through as well; she’s very selfish and rarely looks or treats her mother like a human being. She is called out for that, thank goodness! The ending is a bit of a letdown as well, but I can’t deny it’s a natural ending. It didn’t go the way I wanted, but it did right by the characters and Rose’s growth as a person.

Reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars but much more down-to-earth, Rules for 50/50 Chances is a good choice if you want a diverse, true-to-life read. It may take a little longer to read than the average book, but you’re unlikely to regret the read. Sure, you might not choose to reread it, but what you get from the one read is worthwhile and will stick around. You’ll look back on it fondly.
Profile Image for Elaine Dimopoulos.
Author 3 books55 followers
February 8, 2015
RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES is YA realism at its best: a moving story with a fascinating central character facing a life-altering decision. Rose's mother has Huntington's, and Rose must decide whether to get the test that determines if she will inherit the disease. Beautifully voiced, gorgeously written. The interracial romance is fresh and well crafted, too--and who doesn't love a cross country train trip? I can see RULES becoming an instant classic with wide appeal, a la THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!
Profile Image for Karla Mae (Reads and Thoughts).
696 reviews142 followers
February 28, 2016

*ARC Kindly provided by Kate Mcgovern (the author) for review*

“If you had a crystal ball, like in a fairy tale – or a magic mirror or one wish or whatever – would you want to know how you were going to die? Would you want to watch it happen, in slow motion, every day?”

  With an opening line like that who wouldn’t get scared? Honestly, I’m scared of reading stories that involves sick people. I’m clingy. I easily get attached to lovely characters and I actually don’t want to feel so broken on whatever might happen to them. But let me tell you that that first line might be a bit deceiving – no one’s dying (really dying) yet. This is the start of a journey for a teen girl in discovering if she’s also inherited her mother’s genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease.

Rules for 50/50 Chances is a story about Rose – whose mother has inherited a genetic disease called Huntington’s disease. With a fifty-fifty chance of inheriting the same disease, Rose was skeptical to pursue a lot of things in her life – college, ballet career and even falling in love. A few months to go and she’ll be eighteen, then she can take a test that tells  if she carries the same genetic mutation – would she go through with it and live a life that already leads to death or just let life live?

  As I’ve mentioned, if not really for my busy work schedule, I would have breezed into reading this book in at least 2 days the most. That‘s how deep the story could suck you in once you’re really into it. Unfortunately, I was only able to sit down yesterday and breathe in tge last 50% of the book in one sitting.

  Rose is your typical seventeen year old character. She’s spunky and talented. But she did have a tendency to get selfish and self centered at times. Realistically, if I was on her place, I would feel the same way. If I have a fifty percent chance of dying no sooner that later I would as pessimistic as her, so I do understand where she’s coming from. In addition to her pessimism, she as well refused to believe that someone understands what she’s going thru until she met Caleb…

  “It’s nice, in a weird way – knowing that the person in his own world next to me understands a little bit about what my world looks like.”

  Caleb understands what Rose is going through. His mom and sisters also has a rare genetic disease called Sickle Cell anemia – also incurable. He may have not inherited the disease but he understands how Rose feels.

Of course, a love story was built for this two. I love their nicknames for each other – HD Girl and Sickle Cell Boy. But though I loved their chemistry and scenes together – Caleb was not much sold on me. He’s hot and cold with Rose. Yes, I understand that he has his own struggles with his sick mom and sisters but I just can’t feel that he’s really into Rose most of the times. It feels like he’s always neglecting her. With that, the majority of their times together just felt flat and forced.

Despit my hang-ups with Calebs character, one thing I truly appreciate about this book is the diversity of its characters – Rose is American, Caleb if African American and Lena is Asian. I love how despite their racial differences they have bonded greatly with each other.

The family presence on this book was also greatly shown and it is deeply touching. Despite Rose being hot and cold about her mom’s illness, you could still see her love and support for her. She even travelled one of her mom’s dreams Train Line! Her dad’s dedication to her mom despite of her illness was exceptional- it was indeed true love for the both them. Also, let’s not forget her grandmother who gave up her own life in London to help take care of her daughter-in-law. Despite the disease being a huge part of their family, their love for one another seems to fight that off.

The story also made me aware of rare genetic diseases that are growing rampant in our world today. I’m not familiar to many of them but this story opened me up into learning more about rare genetic diseases which is honestly fascinating. It’s also good to be aware that these kind of genetic diseases are really there.

The way the story ended was kinda in between for me. That is not actually what I was expecting. I wanted answers as much as Rose does but I was not able to get those answers. The closure did not come. But on the other side, I understand why the story went that way. I guess, it’s just easier to let life live instead of living and counting down the days of your death. Just YOLO, Right?

In all, Rules for 50/ 50 Chaces is a great realistic life and death read for me. Though the topic of the story was heavy, Mcgovern has managed to make it lighter and enjoyable for young readers. It makes us appreciate life more, be full of hope and just let life live.

*For more reviews, please feel free to visit Reads and  Thoughts*
Profile Image for Brittany S..
1,585 reviews701 followers
December 16, 2015
Initial impressions 10/27/15: Actual rating around 3.75 stars
This book felt very honest and true to the characters which I really appreciated! Sometimes Rose was a little too practical and not emotional enough but I also totally understand that. Everyone handles the uncertainty of life's major challenges in a different way.
I really enjoyed the characters and the reality of the book but it did seem a bit long in places. It took me about ten days to read which is kind of long for me (though I did read it while reading others at the same time) but it was a situation where I just wasn't super drawn to keep going. It wasn't like I was going to stop reading but I didn't really feel that pull to jump back in. Maybe because it was so heavy? Maybe becauseRose herself is so emotionally closed off? It was also hard to read at times because I already have things going on in my life and didn't always want to read about them in a fictional world at the moment though I do appreciate that the book didn't devastate me.

Full review as originally posted HERE on The Book Addict's Guide 12/16/15: I was recently on the blog tour for THE RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES and had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the book. Honestly, I had been shying away from books surrounding serious ailments and illnesses lately because I’ve just been in the mood for some lighter topics so I was actually glad that this I did end up reading the book for the blog tour since it might have otherwise sat on my shelf for a while!

THE RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES was really well done. The main character Rose hits a crossroads in her life when she finally comes to the age where she can decided whether she wants to get tested for Huntington’s disease — a genetic disorder that she has a 50% chance of inheriting from her mother. I really appreciated Rose’s character and how mature she was about the whole situation. There was still plenty of typical teenager but I also got to see the maturity that Rose has acquired over the years, especially when helping out with her mom. It’s never an easy situation to be in and I thought Rose had some real strength to support her mother as well as dealing with the looming question of whether she would inherit the disease as well. I really thought she handled this looming decision about as best as a teenager (or anyone, really) can.

Throughout the book, Rose waffles back and forth whether to get the test — despite the fact that her parents don’t want her to either way — and really puts her life on hold until she knows what her DNA holds for her. As much as people told her to live her life to the fullest no matter what the outcome was, I feel like I would have reacted the same way. If I thought I was going to have this disease, I would probably feel wary of falling in live just like Rose did — mostly because of the fear of hurting a loved one when the disease takes hold. Because of her unknown future, Rose did keep people at a distance and that just felt really realistic for me. It was also hard to connect to her at times because of that and also incredibly frustrating to see people already getting hurt, but it felt genuine and true to how her life might go.

I think the distance that Rose puts between her and her loved ones sort of distanced me as a reader as well so I didn’t connect to the book as much as I had hoped on an emotional level. I think that was a great portrayal of the reality that could come from these situations though. It sounds weird but I actually enjoyed the fights (as tense as they were) between Rose and her family, friends, and new crush Caleb. Her family and friends merely try to support her but Rose still has that feeling that they don’t quite understand — even Caleb who has several family members suffering from Sickle Cell Anemia, another genetic disease. I think it prevented me from connecting with all of them just a bit but I actually appreciated that there was a sort of constant struggle and not just one big blow up fight. It just felt like a very realistic representation.

I have to say that I was a bit disappointed in the ending but I also understand why Kate McGovern chose to end the book that way. The book really was about Rose’s feelings, her journey, and her decisions and I appreciated how all of that went! I would have loved a bit more closure but all-in-all, it was an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 4 books715 followers
November 25, 2015
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.
3,916 reviews111 followers
March 5, 2016
17 year old Rose Levenson sees her possible future every time she looks at her mother. Living with Huntington's disease, a degenerative condition that will eventually prove fatal, Rose's mother has passed on a 50/50 chance for Rose to get the disease as well. On the cusp of heading off to college, Rose has to decide whether she can live her life knowing she may get the disease or find out for certain with a blood test. With her future hanging in the balance, can Rose get up the courage to really live?

Rules for 50/50 Chances is YA realistic fiction, dealing with life changing issues such as illness and death. The author does an excellent job portraying a teenager, faced with the possibility that her future might not be under her control. Rose's reactions are totally justified, especially since she is faced with an impossible dilemma. Caleb was not as successful, as his reaction to Rose in certain circumstances just did not seem realistic. Rules for 50/50 Chances was well done, with a great plot and complete characters. I look forward to reading more by author Kate McGovern in the future.
Profile Image for Alexa.
2,214 reviews11.7k followers
May 27, 2016
FIRST THOUGHTS: I really, really liked this story, you guys. It's not just how it opened my eyes to Huntington's Disease, or how the romance made me smile. It's the way it unabashedly remained truthful through it all, good and bad, and how it doesn't hesitate to show us the real deal when it comes to these characters, their relationships, their lives. Rose was not always the easiest to understand, and frustrated me a lot, but I totally GOT it.
Profile Image for Laurence R..
617 reviews86 followers
April 4, 2016
This is a pretty good book. It has great romance, realistic characters, and it deals pretty well with a rare genetic disease. Although I can't say I know much about the latter, it certainly opened my eyes.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,312 reviews52 followers
March 28, 2016
This review can also be found on A Thousand Lives Lived, check it out for more!

I like books about taking chances. About people taking risks and discovering something new about themselves. Obviously, I didn't want any horrible outcome of this novel and its main character, Rose Levenson. Rules for 50/50 Chances is not your average contemporary romance tale that some people compare to anything by the works of John Green and The Fault in Our Stars. This novel can save a life, more specifically the life of a bookworm who feels like there isn't anything good anymore out there to rave about or recommend. At least, I know that it saved me in a way and I can never look at the cover the same way anymore since I know what it did to me. Kate McGovern throws in a reader's dream—a contemporary tale that shows diversity, an unique concept and a romance that is seriously gorgeous and meaningful.

I'd say that there is a greater than 50 percent chance that you will adore this book. Much, much more greater than 50%. I have not been able to give out many five star ratings this year, and when this novel came around, it changed my perspective of great reads. WE NEED DIVERSITY. 2015 and much of 2014 were years of diversity, where new books all featured characters who fit in their own skin and were proud of who they were. Then... it kind of stopped. I haven't read a diverse book in a while. After flipping through the last pages of this beauty, I headed off to my Goodreads shelf where I realized that I haven't checked off too many books in the "diverse" category. That kind of shattered my heart. I didn't expect this to be diverse. When it was mentioned that Caleb is African-American, my heart crumbled into happiness. This is such a precious read! (I keep telling myself this continuously, actually.)

"'Let's face it,' I say finally. 'There are more ways to die in this world than to not die. There are exactly zero ways to do that.'" (115)

Do not try to contradict that quote. Don't even implant that thought into your mind! I know you just did because I threw the idea to you, like if you caught a ball. Ugh. Geez. That is what Kate McGovern's writing was like. There were quotes implanted throughout the novel at random times (but those that made sense) which caused me to think. To think about life and all of the things that I as a teenager have not yet learned or discovered in this glorious world. This kind of was, in a way, philosophical and heartbreaking. My heart crackled and popped at times where something unbelievable happened or when I felt Rose's agony and heartbreak.

So you just keep seeing me blabbing about how this novel hit me. But really, you're inwardly asking, what is this about? Sadness. A girl named Rose. A boy named Caleb. Two families hit by different genetic illnesses that has begun to cause them to crumble inwardly. Rose's mother was diagnosed with Huntington's disease, where her fourth chromosome is mutated and causes her mental condition especially, to deteriorate. Rose discovers that she has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the disease. Her life falls apart as she realizes that the things that she loves to do and see might not even be worth it if she inherits the disease one day. Her father panics, tries to warn her to stay away from the negative thoughts and not take a test just yet. Rose dreams of going to a prestigious ballet academy in San Francisco and to ride trains all over the world, seeing things that she has never seen before. But Huntington's is on her mind. When she meets Caleb, who is also dealing with his two sisters and mother carrying the sickle cell, she feels like she is not alone.

Of course, a person cannot always rely on another person for too long. I've seen this in my own life. It's kind of like human nature. Rose and Caleb's relationship is emotional, and relatable, because the two could relate to each other so well and understand the hardships that they both have to encounter in their daily lives at home. They had very alike personalities that made their own relationship seemed flawed at some points because inwardly, Rose knew exactly what Caleb was trying to say, but she couldn't let the truth slip out at all.

"Because it's a slippery slope from kissing to boyfriend-ing to falling in love. And falling in love is like getting a dog: You're pretty much guaranteed to end up with a big loss. Loss. It stops sounding like a word if say it enough times." (138)

I read this in a jiffy. One sitting. The minimum amount of time that you can imagine. I adore it so much. It's a refresher, honestly. My life is complete because of this book. And when everything came together and the ending hit me, I was more than satisfied. This is a tragic, coming-of-age novel about a girl who is torn between changing her life forever or not. Because of a test. The ending kind of killed me inside, I saw it coming, but I loved it anyways and it didn't change my opinion at all. Zero. Nada. I want to keep gushing and freaking out over the romance and everything else that came to mind here.

Rules for 50/50 Chances is seriously one of the best books I have ever read. I have never read anything like this—at all. My life has become better because of this story (not that it sucked before or anything) and it's going to be one of those stories that you won't have to pick up again because its magic still sticks inside of you. You won't be able to forget Rose and Caleb's story and their relationship... ever. I guarantee that you will build some personal relationship with this beauty.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review! Thank you so much!*
Profile Image for rachel.
63 reviews
August 23, 2017
Reasons to like:
Very diverse characters-- I appreciated that.

While I don't disagree with some others' opinions that Rose was at times annoying, I thought she was relatable, which I think is important in a book.

I'm no expert, but I think after reading this book, I feel somewhat more educated on Huntington's disease. Yay for new knowledge

Reasons not to like:
My main thought throughout reading this book was how predictable the whole thing was. I like Rose for her relatability, yes, but I don't think there was anything about her that was different from other YA female protagonists-- not the fact that she "used the pretend the raindrops were racing down the window", or that she "wants to tell him she loves him back but just can't".

One real reason not to like Rose though is how competitive she is with Caleb over whose life was worse based on the severity of the diseases their families have to deal with

I also was not particularly interested in Rose and Caleb's relationship. They're fine characters, I just didn't care much for them as a couple.

And what's with the thing about turning their genetic diseases into nicknames, is that supposed to be cute or something

ALSO what kinda ending is that, throughout the whole book she wanted one question answered and she didn't even get it.
I wasn't satisfied sry, next
Profile Image for Samantha.
14 reviews10 followers
March 6, 2018
I liked this book a lot! This was probably one of my quickest reads! This book is about a girl named Rose and her dying mother. Rose gets wrapped up in the genetic disease world and can not force herself to stop thinking about what if's. She meets this guy named Caleb at the rare genetic disease walk in upstate Brooklyn. Caleb's mom and twin sisters have sickle cell. They slowly fall in love blah blah blah and all that stuff. Rose is a ballet dancer and the book talks about that as well. All in all its a quick read.
Profile Image for Nẹdu.
320 reviews23 followers
February 26, 2017
it is quite ironic that i read this book now when I heard about get out. also the way rose tries to make sickness a competition is gross.
Profile Image for Erin Entrada Kelly.
Author 18 books1,500 followers
November 18, 2019
The characters felt so real, like they could walk off the page. So well written and brings up many interesting questions. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Lucy 80s girl.
40 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2021
So, this book was probably the first YA(Young adult) book I read that was about rare diseases. This is about a girl named Rose and her mother has Huntington's disease and she does ballet and she can get the test for the virus and throughout the book she questions whether she wants to take the test or not. I believe this book takes place in Massachusetts. She is also 18 and going into college so I believe she was in senior year of highschool. She also meets a boy named caleb and they kind of get to know each other and a romance sparks. This book I think would be fine for a 12+. By the end, (SPOILER ALERT) ⚠️⚠️. Rose goes to the building or place or wherever to see if she has Huntington's or not. She actually walks out and tells her dad that she doesn't want to know the results and to wait a couple of years. I was disappointed by this cause I really wanted to know if rose had Huntington's or not even though she was 18. Also rose and caleb get into a argument or 2. Other than that, this book was awesome and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to know about a rare disease.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cheyenne Teska .
236 reviews65 followers
November 15, 2015
Rose has spent the last 6 years of her life watching her mother's motor skills deteriorate before her. The thing about Huntington's disease is that there's nothing that anyone can do to about it, and the horrifying reality is that Rose has a 50/50 shot of getting the disease herself. The worse things get, the more she begins to look into testing, which she can do as soon as she turns 18, although that's not necessarily recommended. As readers get to know Rose and her family, we get a close look at the emotional struggles of caring for a sick loved one.

It becomes very clear that Rose's fear of the future is controlling every decision she makes now. She doesn't want to get too close to anyone and she wants to make sure that she chooses a career that will make enough money to cover the cost of medical bills in case she does inherit the disease. When Rose meets Caleb at a walk for genetic diseases, he turns her entire world upside down. Suddenly she's beginning to let go of the idea that being alone is best. He understands some of the things she's going through, since his mother and sisters are suffering from sickle cell anemia, another incurable disease. The relationship between Caleb and Rose is a special one. They both come from different backgrounds, and although he's been through a lot, he's unafraid to speak the truth and let himself feel.

Though Rose is a very likable character, she does seem a little selfish at times, refusing to believe anyone else truly understands her suffering. Honestly, if I knew that I had a 50% chance of inheriting the disease that was tearing my family apart, I think I would be just as pessimistic as she is. Fortunately, there are plenty of people in her life that care about her and try to show her that she still has so much to live for, no matter what the results say. Lena, her best friend, is also an important character, because she makes it known that she will always be there for Rose through thick and thin. Not everyone finds a friend like that, especially at a young age, and I wish we'd gotten to see more of those two together.

Rules for 50/50 Chances is a wonderful contemporary that focuses on the deeper meanings of life and death. It's a journey of growth, love, and acceptance that many people will be able to enjoy. Although it's a heavy topic, the author managed to make the story lighthearted and full of hope, showing readers that no matter what the future holds, you should always live your life to the fullest.
Profile Image for John Clark.
2,343 reviews36 followers
March 21, 2016
If you were watching your mother die of a genetic disease and knew you had a 50/50 chance of getting it, what would you do? Would you decide to be tested and know for sure, even though chances are that you wouldn't have any symptoms for fifteen to twenty years? Compound that with the fact that your life has revolved around ballet since you were a little kid and consumes almost as many hours as a full time job.
This is the situation facing seventeen year old Rose Levenson. Her mother's condition is getting worse, to a point where mobility and independent functioning are nearly gone and she can lash out verbally despite not meaning to. Rose is trapped between denial and pessimism while letting the 50/50 odds rule her life although she denies this.
When she meets Caleb at a walk to raise money for genetic research, she likes the feeling of comfort and ease between them even if he's black and she's a white half Jew. He's involved because his mom and his twin ten year old sisters have Sickle Cell Disease, so he understands both chronic and stress.
Rose has let her preoccupation with Mom's Huntington's disease rule her present as well as her potential future far more than she realizes, so much so that she can't allow herself to imagine anything real or happy down the road. She's torn about doing anything beneficial to herself. Caleb, however, can see a future, one where she's part of his and free of her disease paralysis. It takes a lot of emotional pain, some heartbreak and a couple life-altering decisions for Rose to get far enough out of her own head to see the possibilities awaiting her if she's willing.
I like this book even though there were times while reading it where I was uncomfortable. That was because I wasn't able to sense whether it would turn out well. That's far from a criticism. This is an emotional book, one teens with strong fears or worries about family or relationships might well benefit from reading.
Profile Image for Alicia.
6,212 reviews124 followers
February 14, 2016
I knew after a few pages that I was not going to like the book because I kept getting distracted after a sentence or two and I know it was because I did not connect with Rose, the main character. I generally disliked her and not for anything that the author intentionally does to make us dislike the character. I just didn't like her.

But, I appreciate the issues and problems of the book and think it hits a different audience in YA lit that doesn't always get discussed: there are loving parents together in the home, there are conversations about illnesses (and yes, I know, there are plenty of those out there from Deadline to The Fault in Our Stars to Before I Die) but in a different way, that focuses more on the decisions made in association with them, not necessarily about the characters living with them, and also that Rose's friends and love interests are a multicultural mix. The crux of the book is about Rose's decision to find out/know whether she has inherited the heartbreaking Huntington's Disease.

As soon as I lost interested, I skipped to the last chapter (as I always do) and realized thankfully that I didn't think I missed anything in the middle of the book. I'm glad I didn't stick with it.

Book Hook: Romance, deliberate, heartwarming, thought provoking, realistic
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