Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Author Spotlight: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM


Kate McGovern has taught theatre and language arts to middle schoolers in Boston, New York, and London. A graduate of Yale and Oxford, she currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was born and raised. RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES is her first novel.

Title: Rules for 50/50 Chances
Author: Kate McGovern
Publisher: FSG
Publication: November 24th 2015
Cover Rating: 5/5

The first thing I want to mention is that when I opened Rules for 50/50 Chances to the first page... I may or may not have read the first paragraph like the beginning of a Grey's Anatomy episode, out loud, in a rather convincing voice too. I have no idea what that says about me but after reading the synopsis and finding out the book is about medical situations, my brain just kind of went straight to Grey's Anatomy. My brain also went to Grey's Anatomy's episode in season seven, I believe, where the woman has Huntington's and she was literally trying to live as much as she possibly could while she still could.

The best way to describe Rose, our protagonist, is scared. She is scared she will end up sick like her mother so she has basically stopped living. No... Not stopped. Never started, really. She is too afraid to try anything new or let anyone into her life because she is afraid she will end up dying young and ruining everything. I really think she should have been on some sort of anxiety medicine. It is okay to think about death and worry about it occasionally. But on a daily basis and to the point that is literally keeps you from living, yeah, that's something that needs to be treated.

BUT if I was in Rose's shoes I would be a little crazy too. I could not imagine having to watch my mother slowly wither away. I mean, yeah, growing old and dying is one thing. But slowly turning into someone else and then dying is different. Rose has pretty much already lost her mother. So I can understand why she is a little messed up.

Lena was such a great and supportive friend. Rose is a seriously lucky person to have found these people who give her so much feedback and support. Lena isn't afraid to tell Rose what she thinks and I love that about her so much. If you are someones friend you need to be honest with them. Yes, supporting them in a big thing, but if supporting them will end up hurting them then you need to speak your mind and tell them what you think.

I liked Caleb. I think he brought something good out in Rose. He gave her the balls to try and live life. I don't think there would have been much of a story without him pushing Rose out of her comfort zone and encouraging her to LIVE. But towards the end I think he made a lot of poor choices. He was a complete dick to Rose. I think he over reacted to a lot of things and if he had these feelings ALL ALONG why did he say he loved her and do other things with her? 

The entire time I was reading the book I wanted to grab Rose by her shoulders and shake her. I wanted to yell at her. Then I want to sit down and tell her that if she is so worried about dying then she should WANT to live her life to the fullest. Do everything she dreams of doing. That way IF she does die she doesn't regret NOT living. She is living in a world of nothing but fear and I know she is going to regret not living her life while she was a teen when she is older. She will look back on her life and be like, damn, I didn't do shit with my teenage years.

Health issues aren't the only topics in this book. You have love, skin color and some pretty big life changing events that happen. So don't come into this book thinking it's just going to be about medical issues because, yes, the majority might be about health issues, but the other events that happen throughout the book are what make this novel so amazing.

By the end of the book a lot of things started to change. I saw change in Rose that I actually didn't expect to really see. She started viewing the world a little bit differently. I can't say whether it was a good or bad change. Only Rose knows that answer. I think the bravest thing Rose did was actually go to the Ballet Audition at PCCA. I think that was the actual point where she started to change.

I think the big thing this book has to teach you is don't be afraid to live. Rose was so afraid of dying that she wouldn't let herself live. So, she was pretty much making her biggest fear come true. The moral of this story, for me at least, is to follow your dreams and live life to the fullest. I have no idea if the author set out to write such a diverse and intense book but she did an amazing job with it. 

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.




1) Have you always wanted to become an author?
​I've always wanted to write--and I've always done a ton of creative writing in my spare time--but I didn't always know I would write for young adults, or even fiction. I grew up doing theatre and my first big pieces of writing were plays. My play BLUE BEFORE MORNING ran Off-Broadway at the DR2 Theatre in 2008. I've also written a lot of essays and other pieces of creative non-fiction. But as I started working more and more with students, I found myself more drawn to novels for teens, and decided to try my hand at it.

2) What made you decide to write a book with Huntington's Disease as the main focus?
​In 2007, I read a news article about a young woman in a similar situation to Rose​. She was trying to decide if she wanted to get tested for Huntington's disease or not. I was really struck by the complexity of that question--what would you do?--and her story stuck with me. I started reading more and more about HD, and eventually started writing RULES. 

3) Are you currently working on any new books?
​I am! I'm working on another YA contemporary. It's a love story at its core, but it deals with some big, complex issues of race and violence. I'll be able to say more about it soon!
​ 
4) Have you ever danced ballet?
​Not really--I danced a little bit in high school, but like I said, I was a super theatre geek, so I spent the vast majority of my time acting, writing plays, doing set and lighting design, and directing theatre. I LOVE dance, though, and I have a particular thing for books and movies about ballet--so I decided to put Rose in that world.
​ 
5) Do you think you would live your life differently if you found out you had a life shortening illness?
​That's a huge question. I'm sure I would in some ways, and probably not in others. It's hard to know, I think, how you would really respond to circumstances like that unless you're living them. For example, if you ask a room full of people if they would get tested for Huntington's, most will say yes. But in reality, only about 10 percent of at-risk individuals go through with testing. I think that tells us that the choices we THINK we'd make, hypothetically, and the choices we really make when faced with a situation, can be very, very different. 
​ 
6) Have you ever rode any of the trains mentioned in the book? 
​Yes! I rode the California Zephyr in 2012 and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. You see the country in a whole different way when you watch the landscape change and unfold out the window. Like Rose, I was profoundly affected by that ride.​ ​It gave me a fresh perspective on the many different ways people live in this huge country of ours. ​​That's why I wanted her to experience it, too. More recently, I rode a train called the Himalayan Queen to a city called Shimla in northern India (which is also mentioned in RULES--it's where Jay is from!). That was UNBELIEVABLE. It winds very, very slowly through the foothills of the Himalayas. The views are stunning, and the windows open all the way so you can just hang your head out and breathe in the fresh air and experience the ride. I'll never forget that.

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