"My mother is my crystal ball," declares 17-year-old Rose Levenson. She's right in more ways than she believes.
Rose's mother suffers from Huntington's disease, a rare, genetic, fatally progressive physical and mental disease—"the tiniest typo in a book with billions of words"—that Rose stands a 50 percent chance of developing. When she meets Caleb, an African-American art student whose mother and sisters have sickle cell anemia, she realizes that she can take a genetic test when she's 18 to find out whether she inherited more than her mother's love of trains and dancing. Her developing romance with Caleb, fraught with frank arguments on race and the perversely human tendency to compare problems, sparks more suspense than her life-or-death indecision about being tested. Despite everything the result would influence—college, family, a future in ballet—Rose's attitude is flatly pessimistic. While understandable against her mother's horrifying personality fluctuations, this is also frustrating. She highlights loss of empathy as a Huntington's symptom while extending little to family and friends herself, dismissing even her mother's grief as a "one-sided irrational disease-induced rampage"; by the time she acknowledges her friends' problems and her mother's personhood, readers may have lost their patience.
McGovern tackles uncertainty in an array of forms—illness, college, career, love—with ethnically diverse characters and occasionally memorable phrases, but through Rose's often self-centered point of view, the result is uneven. (Fiction. 14-18)