Here are some facts about me:
- I’m eighteen
- I am from two different countries
- I’m a fraternal twin with a sister
- I’m a violist
- I’m religious
- I’m fairly happy
- I was rejected by some prestigious American universities
All but one of these things (guess which one!) I have in common with one or the other of the sisters in You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. And this book is so much. It’s not perfect, but it does what it does really well.
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. (blurb from goodreads)
While I’m a twin, this book is not so much about being a twin as it is about being the idea of a twin. That does not quite make sense but what I mean is: Rachel Lynn Solomon plays with that idea of being a fraternal twin where you have a lot in common but different genes. Because the crux of this novel is that one twin might be dying and one twin will not be. (and that’s kinda a spoiler but also this probably wouldn’t be a book if both were fine.) I myself am really close to my twin sister and I don’t really relate to that aspect of the book at all, but I thought it was really well written.
This book is about growing apart, and that’s what makes it a YA book. (I often consider that: what makes a book YA, other than publisher/author labels). And then it’s about growing together again. I was alarmed by how much a section about Tovah growing apart with her so-called best friend resonated with me: it was just so marvellously and considerately written. And Solomon doesn’t challenge that change.
The central narrative, though, is of the sisters. It explains how they lost each other and how they find eacho other, but differently. It’s heartbreaking stuff and just exquisite honestly. I was torn apart by a scene where, after immeasurable agony, the sisters are fighting. The gist of it is that one declares “I hate you.” And the other looks at her and says “I don’t”. Just writing about this makes me feel emotional. It is probably the best single scene I have read in a novel all year, and the whole story was worth it just for that. There are so many ways that their family is breaking; that both Tovah and Adina are selfish. And they’re selfish because they’re fighting for their own path and they don’t really know what that should looklike, so the sabotage each other’s success.
I said that this book was not at all like my relationship with my twin sister. That’s a lie. When you’re a twin, you’re going to be compared to people. You have to forge your own identity in fire and still it’s about who the other person is. (Sidenote: I’m living 800km from my sister right now and that breaks my heart but it’s also weird and beautiful to be my own person). I know that over and over sting–and sometimes stab–of comparison, comparison, comparison. That’s what eats at Tovah and Adina (and thankfully hasn’t done to me and Shar!) and Rachel Lynn Solomon writes that extremely well. But even if you’re not a twin, that experience of not being the same person as someone else (because, duh) has undoubtedly been part of your life; and in this extreme version of that, you will tremble a little with how much she gets it.
There’s so much else here too, though. The story is very frank and sex positive. I really liked Tovah’s romantic arc and that whole idea of not submitting to apathy and fear (though I totally didn’t have a boyfriend in high school for various reasons most of which were my high standards and no regrets but I DIGRESS). Adina’s romantic story is entirely different and less happy. It was never going to end well, but you can totally see why it might, you know? Adina is so desperate and I almost wanted that happiness for her. But that aching relationship is written spectacularly too.
I also loved the parents in the story! and the discussions of religion and choosing that, and choosing faith (or not choosing that as the case may be). That was really beautiful, and I learnt a lot about Jewish culture (which having one Jewish semi-friend in high school didn’t teach me. like, the philosophy behind Jewish faith. That was super cool.) I appreciated the use of music (yay viola!) and the storylines about finding what you want to do after high school: set paths versus new futures, and loving who you are now and also who you could become, and mortality of course.
Ultimately though, this is a book about learning to choose not to hate. It was completely compelling and beautiful.
have you read this? what’s your favourite book about sisters? tell me in the comments!