Title: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Date published: January 2, 2018
TW: self harm, suicidal ideation, teacher/student sexual content
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?
This is a complicated book that I have complicated feelings about. I will probably use the word “complicated” many times in this review. I read YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE kind of on a whim because I wanted to read something that was published earlier in the year that I missed. There were a lot of things I liked about this book…okay, scratch that, there were a lot of things I thought were objectively good about the book, but it also made me really uncomfortable to the point where I almost DNFed it and felt kind of sick to my stomach while reading. So let’s unpack some of my feelings on this book, shall we?
Adina and Tovah were very complicated characters
If I had to pick a word or phrase to describe Tovah and Adina, “one dimensional” would definitely NOT be one of them. Each character had a lot of negative characteristics and good things about them (okay, Adina maybe had more bad things than good things) but the negative things, especially where Adina was concerned, weren’t necessarily portrayed as being “bad.”
I really liked that Adina’s sexuality wasn’t portrayed as negative
Adina is a very sexual person and has a lot of experience sexually in the book. She had sex for the first time at fourteen and has sex with a couple other people other than that person before she falls for her viola teacher. I thought it was important that the author had Adina realize eventually that even though she wanted them to be, her former sexual relationships weren’t based on love, and instead were based on her trying to force people to love her through her sexuality. Adina is very lost throughout the book, and even though I didn’t entirely relate to all her experiences, I could relate to her in other ways that honestly made me a bit uncomfortable. I think one of the reasons I felt so uncomfortable throughout this book was because I did feel a kinship with Adina and her sexual side because I used to be that way, but she was so unlikeable and judgmental that it made it hard to realize that I might have been that way when I was young as well.
I was not a fan of Adina’s romance
I guess this is kind of a spoiler and kind of a trigger warning, but Adina does have a sexual relationship with her viola teacher. Because of one of my past traumas, I was REALLY uncomfortable with this. The age gap between them was similar to the one I had in my own experience, so it just hit too close to home for me. I also disliked that Adina didn’t ever realize that what Arjun did with her was wrong. Even if they both had sexual attraction for each other, he never should have acted on it because he was in a position of power over her, regardless of the illegality or legality of it. They are never discovered, and Arjun doesn’t face any consequences. Adina does realize that a secret relationship isn’t what she wants, but I wish more attention had been given to the fact that Arjun was skeevy for sleeping with a student and that there was a problematic power dynamic in their relationship.
I thought the portrayal of Huntington’s was really heartbreaking
Sometimes, in books about illnesses that are physical, it can feel like an author is just ticking off boxes with symptoms listed. The portrayal of Adina and Tovah’s mother’s Huntingtons felt very natural, and it was heartbreaking to see how it was such a part of their lives. It was hard to read especially the twin who gets a positive result’s experience of watching her mother get worse as she dealt with her own issues with Huntingtons after Adina and Tovah get their results.(I’m trying so hard to keep this a spoiler free review but it’s very difficult!) The twin who gets a positive result starts thinking that she has symptoms of Huntingtons, and it’s very hard to watch but very well written.
I loved the Jewish representation
I was not raised Jewish but I consider myself culturally Jewish because my mother is Jewish and I identify strongly with that aspect of my heritage. It was fascinating to me to read about characters who practiced Judaism in their lives because I’d never read a book like that before. I thought the discussion of how the Jewish teens in the novel felt especially different during Christmas time stood out a lot and was a good example of what it’s like to have a religion that’s different from the mainstream. I liked that Tovah and Adina’s Judaism was part of the book but not what the book was ABOUT. I also loved the exploration of the phrase in the book that means “all of Israel” about the idea that all Jews are connected, because even though I’m not a practicing Jew, I’ve always kind of felt that way about other Jewish people.
basically, I thought this book was very good, but I don’t know if I’d say I enjoyed or liked it
This is a very excellent book in terms of writing, characterization, diversity, plot, etc. I can objectively say that it is a Good Book. However, I don’t think I could say I actually ENJOYED it because it was so hard for me to read emotionally. Still, I’d definitely recommend it to other people because it is so powerful and unique. I’m going to stop this review here before it gets any longer and just tell you to give this one a try if it slipped by you earlier in the year!