Title: Someone Else’s Life
Author: Katie Dale
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK / Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 2 2012 / February 14 2012
Hardcover/Paperback: 478 pages
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…
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review copy from the UK publisher
Why did I read this book: I love Contemporary YA and this one sounded really good.
Warning: this review contains spoilers. The book is full of twists and though I usually prefer not to spoil twisterific books, I feel that I need to this time, in order to express my feelings about this novel. You have been warned.
Rosie’s beloved mother Trudie has just died of Huntington’s disease, a debilitating condition that ravaged her mother’s mind while Trudie watched helplessly. Now she has to face the fact that there is a 50% chance that she could have inherited the disease herself and she needs to decide whether to take the test or not. That’s when Sarah, her mom’s best friend, tells her the truth (twist!): Trudie was not Rosie’s biological mother and she Sarah, swapped Trudie’s dying baby for Rosie. Rosie narrates part of the story but the chapters alternate between her and an anonymous, secret narrator.
Rosie then starts to investigate and (so very easily) discovers who might be her biological mother – Kitty, an actress working in LA – and together with her boyfriend Andy embark to the USA to find her. Not that she tells Andy her true reason for going off him and he thinks they are simply enjoying a gap year starting in NY. Coincidentally (twist!), Kitty is actually in NY at the same time but doesn’t really take that well when Rosie shows up. Heartbroken, Rosie decides to go on with their travels but Andy had overheard something (so very easily) and plots to stop by a fish and chip shop where (twist!) Rosie’s biological father lives. He welcomes Rosie with open arms (so very easily) but unfortunately, the same can not be said about Holly, Trudie’s real daughter, the baby that should have died (twist!) but didn’t, who was also the anonymous narrator (twist!) and who now must face the truth about her family and face that fact that she might have Huntington’s. To complicate matters further, Holly is also secretly pregnant (twist!) and her decision might impact not only her life but also that of her secret baby.
This is a review that almost didn’t happen – I put the book down twice (you know, because of things like sleeping and working) and every time it was a struggle to resume reading. I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters or the story at all for a myriad of reasons.
First of all, the plot contrivances drove me bananas.Things happened so easily and so quickly with no real emotional development. This is a really important factor because Someone Else’s Life is supposed to be about real grief and life-changing decisions and yet, all the emotional reactions to such tremendous events (death, life-threatening illnesses, lies, lost families, etc) were very superficial. Rosie might tell us that she loved Trudie more than anything else but she takes off as soon as her mother is dead and barely even thinks about her, for example. And what’s up with all the plot twists? My feeling is that the plot twists trumped character development to the overall detriment to the story. The twists kept coming one after another with little to no time taken to explore their meaning to the lives they affected. Yes, characters reacted to them but the emotional conundrums they engendered were surface deep and more often than not ensuing developments were extremely melodramatic and often relying on big misunderstandings and things like mobiles phones that didnt work, messages that were never received in order to lead to more tension. Exclamation points worked in lieu of true expressions of emotion and dramatic lines like (“It’s all MY fault”, “it’s all HER fault”) were repeated and repeated and repeated.
Everybody in the book is good and accepting (except for one character but more on that in a bit) and there are no real consequences for the midwife who committed a very real crime. It is one thing to explore the fact that suing her for malpractice at this point in time would do no one any good but I felt that this decision was reached through hand waving (she had good intentions after all) rather than exploring all the ethic, moral implications of her actions.
Finally, perhaps my greatest point of contention with the novel and what made me feel really uncomfortable is how ALL teenagers in the book are prepared to be together-forever with their high school sweethearts and ready to be parents at 17/18 expect for the one female character who wanted a career more than she wanted children or family and therefore was the only EVIL character in the entire book.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Sunlight dances over the little girl’s dark curls as she toddles clumsily through the dry grass. Her rosy cheeks dimple as she grins, her green eyes sparkling as she lunges sticky fingers towards the camera. Suddenly she trips.
The picture immediately jolts and twists into the grass, continuing at a skewed angle as a chestnut-haired woman rushes over to the child. But she is not crying. The screen fills with silent giggles as her mother scoops her up, her beautiful face filled with tenderness as she cuddles her daughter tightly, protectively, holding her so close it seems she’ll never let go… The picture begins to blur…
I click the remote and the image flicks off, plunging the room into darkness. I stare at the blank screen. It’s weird to watch your memories on screen, like watching a movie. It’s like somewhere, in some wonderful world, those moments are trapped, bottled, to be enjoyed again. I wonder if Heaven’s like that – that you get to choose the best moments of your life and just relive them over and over. I hope so.
The world outside looks different already. A desert of white – the first white Christmas Eve in Sussex in years. The snow hides everything, glossing over the lumps and dips and tufts to leave a perfect, smooth surface. Like icing on a Christmas cake. It’s all still there, though. The dirty gravel that hisses and spits as you drive over it, the jagged rocks in the garden, the muddy patch where nothing grows – they’re all still there, lurking, sleeping, beneath the mask of snow.
Like my mother.
Nothing on the inside changed, the doctors said. She could still understand what we were saying, she just couldn’t respond like she used to. Couldn’t hug me and tell me everything was going to be alright, like she always had. Like I needed her to. Because everything was not alright.
Rating: 4 – Bad
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