Pub. Date: 2nd February 2012 (UK) 14th February 2012 (US)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books (UK) Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers (US)
Pages: 496 (UK) 464 (US)
Readership: Young adult
I had to read Someone Else’s Life as soon as I saw that it was described as young adult Jodi Picoult. I love Jodi Picoult’s style of alternative viewpoints, tackling real issues, and providing dramatic twists. I really wanted to see how this would work as a young adult novel. Having now read the book, I have to say that the description is pretty accurate!
When 17-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty percent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when Rosie tells her mother’s best friend that she is going to test for the disease does she reveal that Trudie wasn’t her real mother after all. Rosie was swapped at birth with a sickly baby who was destined to die. Rosie decides to trace her real mother, joining her ex-boyfriend on his gap year travels, to find her birth mother in California. But all does not go as planned.
Someone Else’s Life reminded me of a novelised version of the 1991 film Switched at Birth, one of my favourites from when I was about 12-13 years old. There’s just something so terribly heartbreaking about the possibility of being switched at birth. I think Katie Dale tackled the issue extremely well, especially how the main character feels after finding out that her parents weren’t her ‘real’ parents. It’s especially dramatic because Trudie and her husband both died without knowing that Rosie was not their biological daughter. I put myself in Rosie’s shoes throughout the book and I was rooting for her to have a happy ending. Katie Dale also keeps the reader constantly on edge by throwing in twists. Some of these twists were fantastic and I loved the drama they added to the novel, but others were a bit too overly dramatic for my taste, and they prevented me from enjoying the novel fully. I also struggled with a few of the characters, finding them a bit too contrived.
Overall, I enjoyed Someone Else’s Life. It made a change from reading contemporary novels where the romantic relationship is the main focus of the novel. It also educated me about Huntington’s, which clearly was an important aim of the story. Huntington’s disease is ‘a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to cognitive decline and dementia’ – I did not realise that there was no cure. Someone Else’s Life is a novel that many people will connect with emotionally as it covers some pretty heavy issues surrounding illness, death, family and identity.
This book was obtained as an eGalley from Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers.