How do you live when you know how you will die? This is the impossible, yet very real question that sets up this expertly written journey of romance, family and self discovery.
From the Blurb:
Five Feet Apart meets Tell Me Three Things in this YA contemporary novel about two sisters, one summer, and a diagnosis that changes everything.
Abby needs to escape a life that she no longer recognizes as her own. Her old life — the one where she was a high school volleyball star with a textbook-perfect future — has been ripped away. Abby and her sister, Brooke, have received a letter from their estranged dad informing them he has Huntington’s disease, a fatal, degenerative disorder that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And when the sisters agree to genetic testing, one of them tests positive.
Fleeing to Catalina Island for the summer, Abby is relieved to be in a place where no one knows her tragic history. But when she meets aspiring documentary filmmaker Ben — tall, outdoorsy, easygoing, with eyes that don’t miss a thing — she’s thrown off her game. Ben’s the kind of guy who loves to figure out people’s stories. What if he learns hers?
I was not able to put this book down. At first glance the story seems simple: girl flees her home town to spend a summer on a secluded island, where she meets a guy and has a whirlwind romance. But from the first page you realize that Abby is not that girl and this is not that story. It is so much more.
I didn’t know much about Huntington’s Disease when I started the book, just that it was genetic and fatal. The authors do a fantastic job of explaining not only the reality of this terrifying diagnosis, but the process a person has to undergo in order to even have the test performed. When we meet Abby, she has already received her results, but is still in the early stages of processing. So we are able to listen in as she struggles to figure out what this will mean and how she can live her life.
The best part about the plot is that it is not too complicated. Catalina is the wonderful setting with just enough personality to keep things interesting, without drowning out Abby’s inner monologue. This is also true about the people who surround her.
There were moments where I wished these characters were a bit more fleshed out. What we do learn about her aunt or her co-workers is so interesting, and I really wanted to know more about them. But ultimately, it truly is Abby’s story, and I think that is the way it should be.
I genuinely can’t imagine what it would be like to find out that you will develop a fatal disease between the ages of 35 and 60, or how that would affect your ability get up in the morning and interact with others, but all of Abby’s choices and conflicted feelings seem completely human and real. Even in the moments were she is making a mistake or hurting those around her, you still empathize with her on a deep level.
Along with her struggle to decide what exactly she wants from her life, the story focuses on her relationships with her sister Brooke and her romantic interest, Ben. Again, I wish we knew a little more about these characters and especially with Ben I wish we had been able to see a bit more of their relationship after they started dating. However, the questions and complications of being connected to someone going through this difficult situation kept the story moving and kept me glued to the pages, even when their development didn’t feel completely full.
A romance story centered around illness is not new, but the questions asked in this novel are fresh and inventive. Abby isn’t sick yet, but she knows what her future will be. How do you move forward when you know what you are ultimately moving towards?
As difficult as it was at times, I genuinely enjoyed the glimpse into Abby’s inner thoughts. I found the questions this book asked to be thought provoking and unique, while also being respectful of just how difficult this situation would be. In the end, there is a message here for everyone about enjoying the life you have in all the moments you can. Because we truly never know what is coming next.