Published by Simon Pulse on January 2nd, 2018
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.
But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.
When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.
These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?
From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.
I don’t even know where to start with this because You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone tackled a whole lot and did everything correctly. I loved every piece of this, from the family to the romance to the mental illness. Everything was just spot on. I think to make it easier on myself, I may break this down into categories.
- The Jewish Representation. I love seeing representation of faith in YA. It’s something I feel YA is deeply lacking, and even more so with minority religions. The Siegels’ faith fills this book and makes it feel full and right. Their devotion is on every page. It was particularly important to Tovah, though less so to Adina. I also loved that there were varying experiences of being Jewish. We had the Siegels who are conservative and keep kosher and go to synagogue weekly. There was Zack, whose family was quite secular. Then there was Adina who started to lose her faith, did not keep kosher, and eventually stopped going with her family. I really loved how this identity was explored through all three sets of eyes, and I also feel like I learned a lot.
- Sex positive attitudes. You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone explores a wide range of attitudes and approaches to sex. Adina was sexually experienced and loved how it made her feel. But she also had some unhealthy expectations regarding one of her sexual partners that she had to deal with over the course of the book. There was plenty of talk about contraceptives and birth control and safe sex. Tovah, on the other hand, was much less experienced in this department. I really loved the conversations she had with her friend, Lindsay, about sex and what to expect. There was even talk of masturbation in this book, female masturbation without making it pornographic. And oral sex! I’m telling you, this book was great if you’re looking for sex-positive YA.
- Identity. This was, at its heart, a coming-of-age novel and I was swept away but all the ways it explored identity. I already talked about the way her Jewish religion helped shape Tovah’s identity, but there was a lot more to her too. She especially had to struggle with the way she compared herself to her sister all of the time. And Adina had to learn to stop letting how men looked at her and thought about her rule the way she thought about herself. Both sisters had a defining Interest: for Tovah is was biology and becoming a doctor; for Adina it was the viola. And both sisters had to confront who they were without those things. I’m not usually interested in coming-of-age tales, but this author wove such a compelling story about these two girls grappling with their futures that I could not put it down.
- Mental illness. Since the premise of this is one sister tests positive for Huntington’s Disease, and the other does not, I will not mention who got which result. But the sister who got the positive result obviously deals with quite a LOT of inner turmoil. The depictions of anxiety and depression were spot on. The way the symptoms of each crept up on her. The relief she felt when she could finally put to words what was happening. I will say right now that there are some trigger warnings for self harm and for suicidal ideation (specifically death with dignity.) But wow, was it an accurate depiction of these things without ever feeling melodramatic or disingenuous.
I picked this up because the story sounded interesting and I cannot pass up reading a book about twins. What I got was so, so much more than I ever bargained for. I loved every single page of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. I felt like I was inside this book, immersed into this family’s daily life. I loved the culture and the way it permeated through every detail. I loved the two sisters and their complicated, messy, tumultuous relationship. Sometimes I was just bowled over with emotion; and of course, I cried a few times too. If you love coming-of-age stories, darker contemporaries, or complicated, full-of-love families, this book is for you and I highly, highly recommend it.