Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale
Simon & Schuster UK, February 2, 2012
Read for 2012 Debut Author Challenge AND 2012 Standalone Challenge
Summary from Goodreads:
When seventeen-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty-per-cent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when she tells her mum’s best friend, ‘Aunt Sarah’ that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie was not her biological mother after all... Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, hitching along on her ex-boyfriend’s GAP year to follow her to Los Angeles. But all does not go to plan, and as Rosie discovers yet more of her family's deeply-buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonising decision of her own - one which will be the most heart-breaking and far-reaching of all...
Look! A real review! I just found this book so compelling--I was writing up a few sentences for a Super Short Review post, but honestly, the topic of Huntington's Disease deserves an entire post. Huntington's Disease is something that is not on most people's radars, unless you know someone who has it. Unfortunately, I know about it. My mom's best friend has lost all FOUR of her children to this horrible disease. Her first husband had it, but didn't begin to exhibit symptoms until his late 40's--when they'd already had all their children. If your parent has HD, there's a 50% chance that you'll get it, too. But in the case of Mom's dear friend, those odds were much, much higher.
If you're more interested in learning about Huntington's Disease, you can visit the Huntington Disease Center of America website.
So, it's because of Mom's BFF that I was attracted to this book in the first place, and I have to say that I absolutely LOVE what Katie Dale did to make readers aware of Huntington's Disease. It's very difficult to describe HD--I've heard it said (perhaps even Katie said it) that it's similar to having Parkinson's Disease AND Alzheimer's Disease at the same time. Basically, it's a brain disorder that causes your nerves to waste away. There's a lot of fidgeting and involuntary movement (chorea), mood swings, and cognitive problems, just to name a few. Ultimately a person with HD will require around-the-clock-care for feeding, clothing, bathing. There is no cure.
To put Huntington's Disease in a young adult novel is already a brave move, and a guarantee that you'll have an emotional read. However, Katie Dale doesn't stop there. No, we've also got a heartbreaking, switched-at-birth story, a finding-your-birth-parents-story, a pair of love stories, and even an across-the-Atlantic road trip story! Any one of these plot lines would have drawn me to this book, but Katie mixes them all together--and does it in such a way that you are immediately drawn Rosie's worlds, both old (England) and new (America). Katie has taken a smorgasbord of plots that seem completely implausible and has made them a very believable contemporary story. The characters are believable and lovable--they are doing the best they can with what they've been given, and their choices might not be our choices, but they're not made without serious thought and consideration first.
I am so grateful to Katie Dale for exploring Huntington's Disease in this novel, and I feel she did an excellent job doing so. I'm very much looking forward to more from her!
Borrowed book from the library.
Enjoy your reading!