This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Another Kate. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Mid-Length Contemporary category.
It’s funny how a piece of paper can change your life-a diploma, a ticket . . . a plain, white envelope
For as long as I could remember, I was the girl with the plan. Good college, good medical school, good career. I would save lives instead of standing by helplessly, watching while they slipped away.
That was before my father called for the first time in fifteen years to tell me about the terminal illness stealing his life-an illness that might be stealing mine, too. It was before he gave me the name of a doctor and a plane ticket to Italy. Before I flew across an ocean. Before I realized how brilliantly bright life could be. Before I met Lucas.
He’s everything I’ve always wanted, and the timing couldn’t be worse. I can’t do this to him-he deserves so much better. My head tells me I can’t afford to fall in love with Lucas, but my heart won’t listen. Lucas is fearless about the future, while I’m not even sure I have one. There’s only one way to know what’s ahead and it’s waiting for me at home inside a plain, white envelope.
All I have to do, is open it . . .
Here is Another Kate’s review:
I felt a little out of my comfort zone reading this book – I don’t think that I had realized that it was New Adult when I signed up to review it; since I’m a couple of decades older than the characters, it was a little hard for me to relate to them at first. But I’m glad that I read it – it’s good to stretch our comfort zones once in a while, right? So let me try to pick apart what worked for me and what didn’t.
The Characters: Sophia is a 22-year old college grad from St. Louis, Missouri, who is getting ready to start med school. She was raised by her mother and Nonna after her father walked out on them when she was 7. She used to party, but has been pretty straight-laced since her senior year of high school (more on that later) – a bookworm, goal-driven (anticipating a career in paediatric cardiology), a former soccer player, and focused on her studies. Lucas is a 25-year old video game developer from California – tall, good looking, easy-going, but with something lurking behind his blue eyes (there always is in NA, isn’t there?). They are both in Italy, sorting out their “issues” when they meet. I liked the characters, I could relate to Sophia, and I was cheering for their romance.
The Angst: Because there has to be angst, right? In the opening chapters of the book, Sophia discovers that her father is dying of Huntington’s Disease, that her paternal grandmother died of Huntington’s Disease, and that there is a 50% chance that she is carrying the gene that will give her the disease too. She has to decide whether she wants to get the genetic test that will tell her how, and at approximately what age she will die. This is not a spoiler, as it is revealed in the early chapters (and I had guessed based on the cover copy). She is also working through feelings of guilt related to her cousin (who was her best friend), who died suddenly at the start of their senior year of high school.
I am going to hide Lucas’ angst behind a spoiler warning because it isn’t revealed until much later in the book, and the gradual revealing of it is part of the plot.
The Writing: This book is written in first-person, so if that isn’t your thing, consider yourself warned. It worked for me though because it gave me a window into Sophia’s head as she works through her potential diagnosis and prognosis. I finished this book part-way through an airplane ride, so clicked over to another book that I had been reading, and found that I had been so caught up in the first-person narrative that it was jarring to switch out of it. One critique often made of first-person narrative style is that you get to know one character well but not the other. In this book, I watched Lucas unfold as a character through Sophia’s eyes and it worked for me as his complexities gradually appeared.
The writing was a little clunky at times – I mean what normal 21st century 22-year-old thinks to herself, “Oh, sweet Jesus, he smells good… a weird, intoxicating blend of citrus and mint, coupled with a heady masculine scent.” But for the most part, the writing didn’t distract me from the story. (What can I say; I’m a grammar geek who appreciates a well-written book!)
The Romance: As I said earlier, I was cheering for Sophia and Lucas as a couple. They were good for and to each other. I struggled, though, to believe that it was a HEA rather than an HFN. They are in their early 20s. They knew each other for not-quite-6-weeks while on vacation in Italy. Yes, they went through a lot of sh*t together, but it still felt a bit rushed as a HEA romance.
One of my favourite parts of the story though was the psychological growth that both characters go through. As part of my (recently completed) studies, I’ve done some reading around Family Systems Theory, and it was fascinating to see the characters come to have insight into how they are acting and how that relates to how both they and their family members have acted in the past.
The Medical: As I said before, I had guessed that the diagnosis was Huntington’s Disease based on the cover copy. As a physiotherapist, I have worked with clients with HD, and this was why I chose to read and review this book. Unfortunately, though the basics of the genetics as well as the genetic counselling and testing felt true to life, I had trouble believing Sophia’s father’s presentation. He is zipping around in his power chair, but appears to have no cognitive or psychological impairments (which are often among the earliest symptoms to appear). He presented more like someone with ALS than someone with HD. So I was skeptical of the book at this point, but was able to quickly move on from this and accept the rest of the book for what it was.
And so I’m giving this book a solid B. It was well written; I enjoyed reading it; I liked the characters; but unfortunately the aforementioned quibbles that I had with it prevent me from giving it a higher grade.
This book is available from:
The Turning Point by Marie Meyer
January 12, 2016
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