“Heartfelt, deeply moving.” —Buzzfeed
“Dark and thought-provoking.” —Publishers Weekly
“A stunning debut.” —VOYA
A poignant, lyrical debut novel about twins who navigate first love, their Jewish identity, and shocking results from a genetic test that determines their fate—whether they inherited their mother’s Huntington’s disease.
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.
About the Author
Rachel Lynn Solomon is the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Our Year of Maybe, and Today Tonight Tomorrow. She is a Seattle native who loves rainy days, her tiny dog, tap dancing, old movies, red lipstick, and books with flawed, complicated characters. Learn more at RachelSolomonBooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone
I USED TO THINK HIS touches meant nothing. We brushed arms in the hallway of his apartment, and I let myself believe the space was simply too narrow. Our hands tangled and I figured it was because we reached to turn the sheet music at the same time.
Then his touches started to linger. I could feel the warmth of his palm on my shoulder through the fabric of my dress after he told me I’d played beautifully, and I convinced myself of something else: he has touched me far too many times for it to be happening by accident.
Today I will make it happen on purpose.
My bus turns onto his street. He lives on a hill claimed by two Seattle neighborhoods, Capitol Hill and the Central District. This hill and I, we go way back. I walked up it the year of the snowstorm when the buses stopped. I slipped down it once, skinning my knee to save my viola case from smashing to the ground. Arjun saw it happen from his fourth-story window, and he rushed down with a Band-Aid with a cartoon character on it. He explained the Band-Aids were for “the little ones,” his younger students. It made me laugh, made me forget about the smear of my blood tattooed on the concrete.
I mutter “thank you” to the driver as I step off the bus, my boots landing in a puddle that splashes water up my sweater tights. It’s the first good rain of the fall, the kind that pummels windows and roofs, making a house sound like it’s preparing for war. It is sweet, fresh, alive. I’ve been waiting for it all month.
Arjun buzzes me inside, and I press the faded elevator button between numbers three and five. By the time the doors swing open, my hands are damp with sweat. To relax, I play a Schubert sonata in my head. I’ve hummed eight measures before I feel calm enough to see him.
“Adina! Hello,” Arjun says, pulling the door wide. “I was starting to think you got lost on the way up.”
“Elevator was stuck,” I lie. My lungs feel tight, like I sprinted up the hill.
“Old building. Happens to me all the time.” He grins, brilliant white teeth between full lips. “Ready to make some beautiful music?”
A collared shirt peeks out the neck of his burgundy sweater, showing the lines of his broad shoulders. The sweater looks so soft, makes me imagine what it would feel like to touch him on purpose. I could do it now. But I don’t have the courage yet. The sight and sound of him have turned my muscles liquid.
I follow him to his studio, where portraits of composers, all grim and serious—possibly because most of them were dying of typhoid or syphilis—stare down at me. With trembling hands, I unbuckle my viola case and arrange my music on the stand in front of me. Arjun sits in the chair opposite mine. The ankles of his pants inch up, exposing his argyle socks.
Our first lesson was three years ago, but it wasn’t until I heard him play that he became someone I think about every night before I fall asleep. Dreamed about. I try very hard to forget that he is twenty-five, my teacher, and entirely off-limits. Sometimes, though, when he looks at me after I finish playing, I swear he feels the same pull.
His lips tip into a grin. “Don’t make fun of me, but I had studded tires put on my car last weekend.”
“No!” I gasp.
He shrugs, sheepish. “Have to be prepared for the worst, right?”
I shake my head, laughing, and relax in my chair. Each winter he prepares for an apocalyptic snowstorm, since he’d never seen snow until his first winter in Seattle. It doesn’t snow in Gujarat, the state in India where he grew up, or in New Delhi, where he played in the symphony.
“It’s September,” I say. “You’re absurd. Besides, we probably won’t even get snow this year. We only got, what, half an inch last year?”
“And it shut the entire city down! We’ll see who’s absurd when you’re stuck in your house for days and you haven’t stocked up on nonperishables.”
“You’d share your protein bars with me.”
“Maybe,” he says, but he’s smiling. He snaps his fingers. “Do you remember the New Year’s Eve symphony showcase I told you about, the one for musicians under twenty-five?”
I nod and scoot to the edge of my chair, my heart hammering allegro against my rib cage. The showcase will feature the best soloists in the Pacific Northwest. I play in the youth symphony, but the viola is typically a background instrument. Rarely do I get the spotlight to myself.
“It turns out,” he continues, “that the director is a friend of mine. I sent him some clips of you playing, and he was quite impressed. He can fit you in for an audition Friday after school, if you’re interested. Three thirty.”
I do some quick mental calculations. If the buses aren’t delayed, I should be able to make it home by sundown. By Shabbat. And even if I know the audition is more important, my family doesn’t have the same priorities. In their minds, tradition beats everything.
“Are you serious? Yes, I’m interested. Thank you!” This is the first genuine happiness I’ve felt in weeks. I turn eighteen this weekend, a birthday I have been dreading, and the genetic test is a couple days after. That test is the reason I need to make a move with Arjun now, before everything could change. Before I find out if the disease that is stealing the life from my mother will do the same thing to me.
“Test,” a word I’ve always viewed with mild annoyance, doesn’t have a fraction of the weight it should.
“You deserve it.” His dark eyes hold mine, replacing thoughts of the test with images of what we did last night in one of my dreams. “Have you decided where you’re applying yet?”
“Peabody, Oberlin, New England, the Manhattan School of Music.” My father, who unlike my mother doesn’t believe someone can make a living off music, has begged me to apply to at least one state school. Just in case, he says. In case what? In case I fail spectacularly at being a musician? Conservatory has been my path since fourth-grade orchestra, when I fell in love with the mellow, melancholy sound of the viola. It was less obvious than the violin, less arrogant than the cello. Bass I’ve only ever seen played by guys with huge egos, as though the instrument is inversely proportional to penis size and they’re trying to make up for their shortcomings. Each year my orchestra classes shrank as kids discovered they liked other things more than strings. And each year I was the one my teachers asked to play solos—never mind that violas don’t usually solo. I vowed to become one of the first to do it professionally.
“Solid choices,” Arjun says.
“And Juilliard, just for the hell of it. I’m still working on the recordings.” Arjun and my school orchestra teachers will write my letters of recommendation. To my other teachers, I am simply a body in a seat. I’m always waiting to stop pretending to take notes on Chaucer or entropy or the quadratic formula so I can go to orchestra, or on Wednesdays, to go to Arjun.
“You’ll get an audition. I know you will.”
I pull at a loose thread on my tights, exposing a triangle of skin. My nerves unravel too many pieces of clothing. The truth: conservatory applications will have to wait until my test results come back. Right now, the uncertainty of it all is paralyzing.
Arjun pages through his music as I get to my feet, positioning the instrument under my chin. He likes his students to stand while playing so we are always performing. I warm up with scales, dragging my bow along the strings in smooth, fluid motions. Then I move on to Bach, Mendelssohn, Handel. Soon my feet are rocking back and forth, my fingers flying up and down the instrument’s neck, the room full of sound that tugs at something deep in my chest. I breathe in minor chords, out major chords.
Sonatas and concertos tell stories. They make you feel every possible emotion, sometimes all within a single piece. They’re nothing like three-minute pop songs with predictable patterns and manufactured sounds. They are joy and tragedy and fear and hate and love. They are everything I never say out loud.
“Your C string is a little sharp,” Arjun says after one piece. “Linger on that last note for a few more seconds,” he says after another. Every few bars, I steal a glance at his face. The looks he gives me are all fire, warming me down to my toes.
After I play my final piece, Debussy’s “La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin,” translated in English as “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair,” Arjun stays silent. It is a delicate, emotional prelude. The flaxen-haired girl is a symbol of innocence.
I love irony.
I put down my bow and lay my viola in my lap. His eyes are half closed, dreamy, like he wants to stay inside the song for a while longer before rejoining the real world.
Nearly a minute passes before he says, “That was incredible. Flawless.”
“I practiced a lot.” Three, four, five hours a day, except on Shabbat, of course.
The rare times I’ve heard him play, he’s been flawless too. Arjun’s hand is on the desk, and before I can let myself overthink it, I cover it with mine. His skin is so warm. My hands are always ice; my twin sister, Tovah, and my parents make fun of me for it. I have dead-person hands, they like to joke. Even in the summer, even when I’m playing viola, they never heat up. But if my hands are too cold now, Arjun doesn’t say anything.
So I take a deep breath and lean in. I want to bury my fists in his sweater and wrap my legs around his waist and push our hips together. I want to forget everything happening at home, the way Tovah seems to do so easily. But I restrain myself. I simply bring my lips close to his, waiting for him to move the last inch. I imagine he would taste like all decadent things you aren’t supposed to have too much of: tart cherries, espresso beans, wine the color of rubies I once saw in his kitchen. My adrenaline spikes, anticipating the rush that comes with doing something you’re not supposed to do and getting away with it.
Something I’m well versed in when it comes to guys who are older than me.
Suddenly he pulls away. A miniature orchestra inside my chest strikes an ominous minor chord. I’m seriously considering moving in again when—
“Adina.” His accent, the one I love so much, clings to my name like it belongs there. Like that’s the way my name was always meant to be said. “This . . . You know it can’t happen. I’m too old for you, and I’m your teacher, and . . .” Any other reasons get lost in the wave of shame that begins to turn my face hot.
His words crash and explode in my skull, making word confetti. Making me feel tiny and stupid and worst of all, young.
“I—I’m sorry. I . . .” I thought you’d kiss me back? How could I have gotten this so wrong? I was so sure. I was so sure he wanted this too.
His lips make a tight, thin smile. A smile that says, “Hey, it’s okay,” but nothing is okay. I am going to combust. I have never been this embarrassed in my life. He won’t meet my eyes, and his hand drops to his lap, leaving mine cold, cold, cold.
“I should go. I’ll go.” I pack my viola as fast as I can. Suddenly I’m fourteen years old and in Eitan Mizrahi’s bedroom. Except that time, I got what I wanted: I was able to change his mind.
“That’s probably a good idea,” Arjun says to the floor. Clearly there’s no changing his mind.
As I race down his hallway and into the elevator, my heart, which swelled when I laid my hand on his, shrinks to the size of a pea. Maybe it even disappears completely. It occurs to me he might be so uncomfortable that he’ll drop me as a student. Give up on me. I’d have to find a new teacher, and no one understands my music the way he does.
It’s not until I get back on the bus that I wonder why, if he was so eager to shut me down, it took him so long to move his hand from mine.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Before I start reviewing this book, I want to tell you that You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon is probably my favourite book of the year. It's one of the most powerful reads of mine, it was raw, it made me feel things. It was absolutely perfect and when it comes out in January, please make sure you read it because you have no idea what you're losing on. "I thought I could force him to love me. Relationships are not about control, though, and perhaps that is why I have never had a real one. I want to always feel strong when I am with guys. That isn’t going to change. I am always going to wear my dresses and red lipstick because I like them. I am always going to have people watch me when I am onstage, but my looks are not the only things that make me Adina." I'm not sure how to make a structure for this book review as I usually tell you first about the things I've enjoyed and then about the ones I didn't. But this book is different because I've enjoyed absolutely everything. Like literary, there's nothing I didn't enjoy. So, buckle up because we're going on a fangirling trip, my dear. Things that I absolutely loved about You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone : How the books makes it pretty clear that women can be everything and don't have to be limited to only on trait (like smart, beautiful or talented). The characters are absolutely unique, Rachel Lynn Solomon did a great job at creating complex and three-dimensional characters. They felt so real, that for the first time, I had absolutely no problem imagining them, imagining what they would like, what they might do in a situation. I absolutely love how Adina and Tovah, the main characters, are very different. Adina is a music prodigy, she is very cofident, she loves make-up and dresses, she's experienced in relationships. And then, Tovah is the smart girl, the one that never gets comments on how she looks, but is always complimented on her brain, she's not that experienced in relationships. You get the idea. What I absolutely loved about Solomon's book is how she fought these cliches. She showed us this sister rivalry that was pretty much rooted in people's expectations and how society sees girls. I've always been annoyed with how girls can only be smart or can only be beautiful and there's never both of them. And if you're beautiful, then you're expected to have a boyfriend, if you don't, then there's something wrong with you. If you're smart, you're expected to focus on your studies and forget about the boys. So, society wants us to be one dimensional, pretty much. And Rachel Lynn Solomon slammed it all. 2. Sisters and a very complex take on their relationship Tovah and Adina don't have a good relationship at the beginning of this book, they are arguing all the time, they don't spend time together and so on. The thing is they have very valid reasons and it's not that simple. You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone is, in my opinion, a love letter to sisters, in the end, you realize how beautiful and touching it is to have a sister, how that bond is beyond everything else. To me, as an only child, it really touched me and made me envious of everybody who has a sister. 3. Family over relationships, always Solomon did a great job of focusing on family rather than on romantic relationships. I think you've seen pretty often on my blog commenting on how YA does pretty badly in incorporating family interactions in the stories a.k.a the missing parents. This one again d
I am honestly speechless, y'all. I had heard really great things about YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE, and let me tell you, it lives up to and surpasses all of the hype. The story and the characters are heartbreaking and emotional and utterly alive. One of my favorite novels of all time; absolutely stunning.
Wow. WOW. That's what comes to mind first. I'm not sure where to start. This book is beautiful and heartfelt, and I loved every single page of it. The characters are so alive and easy to love and root for (even the not so lovable ones), and I loved them from the first twenty pages, and the story is rooted in the way we, as humans, deal with grief and hardship and the ugliness that comes with it and how we wade our way through it anyway (one of my favorite story themes) . I don't even feel that I have the right words for how much I adored this novel. Please, go buy a copy. I loved this novel so, so much. Also, can we mention how wonderful the cover is? The different boot styles, the fact that we can see one girl's face (I won't say who it is because spoilers) but not the other's in the reflection? Yeah. Loving it.
This is a beautiful, touching, and engaging story. You'll love the characters and be hungry for more! It's a great read. I can't say enough good things about it!
This was stellar on so many levels - as a story about sisters, about making plans for a future that's entirely unpredictable, about finding a way to live when confronted with death. There's so much at stake besides the girls' Huntington's results, and I couldn't help rooting for them to find their way forward and find their way back to each other, even when their mutual resentment made perfect sense and a reconciliation seemed impossible. I loved how ambitious both Tovah and Adina were, albeit in completely different ways, and their constant, persistent awareness of their own history--both as Jewish people and as daughters who might inherit the worst parts of their mother's genetic legacy--was beautifully handled and very realistic. I loved their relationships with their parents, and I loved the ways in which each of them had to forge connections with the parent they were less close with. I loved the ongoing dialogue about planning ahead versus living for today, and the realizations both characters come to about their own place in the world and their own self worth. I can be pretty hard on "unlikable" heroines, as so many of us tend to be, and the highest praise I can offer this story is that I never once felt disgusted or infuriated by the choices either of these heroines made, just like I never once wanted to stop reading. As far as I'm concerned, YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE is contemporary YA at its best: heartbreaking, compelling, and completely unforgettable.
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have great life ambitions. Adina is an aspiring soloist, hoping to take her musical skills to above-average levels. Tovah wants to go to medical school and become a surgeon. Various obstacles could deter their plans, but only one of them could crush them to bits: Huntington’s Disease. Their mother suffered from this illness. One of the twins is diagnosed with the disease, and their relationship — once shaky — will take devastating turns. This is a wonderful read. I’m glad the author sent me the ARC file. The characters are well-defined — flawed but relatable. What I like the most is the relationship between them. They’re complex and toxic. The story deals with the family’s Jewish faith, a girl’s crush with her male teacher and mentor, sibling rivalry, and cancer in the family. You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone is as realistic as it gets. I hope Rachel Lynn Solomon is here to stay.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Adina takes music lessons from Arjun in his apartment. Arjun is twenty-five and Adina has a crush on him. She’s also fearful of her possibly life threatening genetic test results. Adina is being tested for the same disease that her mother suffers from. Tovah, Adina’s twin, will be taking the genetic test for Huntington’s disease also. Their mother was diagnosed four years ago and she struggles with the effects. The girls have Jewish heritage from their mother and while Tovah embraces it, Adina doesn’t. I like how Tovah explains why she believes God didn’t cause their mother to have Huntington’s disease: “God has limits, humans have free will, and the natural world isn’t ruled by a higher power”. So, in other words, God doesn’t make people have illnesses. The sisters seem to be complete opposites in everything they do and believe and with their actions and choices. The story’s complexity deals with heritage, Huntington’s disease, twins with extreme differences, genetic testing, coming of age, sexuality, relationships, culture, religion and family. 4 STARS for this debut novel with a lot of depth! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration.
How good is this book? I was able to read an E-ARC in November, and I read the whole book in under two days - on my phone. While on Thanksgiving vacation, visiting my son. I was completely hooked from the first sentence of the book and was constantly trying to read a few pages without anyone noticing. The plot is unique and totally captivating, as are the characters. I loved the honest complexity of Tovah and Adi's relationship. The slow revealing of their back story contrasted with the gut-wrenching misery of their present situation. The integration of Jewish culture is also handled beautifully and thoughtfully. There are some mature scenes in the book, and I would suggest this for 15 and up.
>>Immediately engaging, like stayed up all night to finish it and did not see shit coming! >>Loved both sisters for different reasons. They’re a study in contrast, but it’s not gimmicky. It didn’t feel forced or contrived at all. >>Impressed with how the age-gap romance was handled. I haven’t see such a realistic and nuanced portrayal before. >>There are some brutal, heart wrenching, and awkward moments that made me want to look away and will haunt me. >>Love the sex positivity and talk of girls masturbating. >>The ending is AMAZING. Feels like how it was always supposed to be, I just hadn’t realized it yet.
I really loved this book. I loved the complicated sister relationship. I loved reading about a practicing Jewish family. But the story really hit home for me as someone who has been through the difficult choice of having genetic testing done related to my own mother’s illness. The situation is one that can’t be resolved simply or with a completely happy ending, so I was fascinated to see how the story would unfold. Solomon gives both sisters distinct and intriguing voices and paths, and I really enjoyed the contrast of their development. Adina’s relationship with her tutor was was handled so well, both realistically and with depth. My favorite part about Tovah’s story was seeing how her faith related to her thoughts and choices. This is such a rich, layered story of family and what motivates us to do the things we do, and it was such a pleasure to read.
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone - Rachel Lynn Solomon // JAN 2 “You can spend lifetimes searching tragedies for reasons why.” This was such a great human story. Everything felt so real and earnest. We follow estranged twin sisters, Adina and Tovah, as their lives are changed after one of them tests positive for Huntington's Disease - the same disease that has caused their mom so much pain. Now each girl must reconcile their futures, their faith, and their relationships in the face of this new information. I really liked that Adinah and Tocah were just so human. They got angry and had fights and messed up. They were not perfect people and I didn’t agree with everything they did, but I liked them because they were fallible. They had completely emotional responses to a life-changing situation and I really loved that. I liked that we got to see a practicing Jewish family, and we got to see what their faith meant to each girl. Faith is such a personal things, and I liked seeing how each girl chose to interact with it. This was such an enjoyable emotional read, and I loved the realness of it. I’m a such for twin stories, so that’s what drew me in, but You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone is a beautifully compelling story of forgiveness, family, and looking to your future - even when it’s irrecoverably changed. I received a copy of the book from Simon Pulse via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Rachel Lynn Solomon's You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone was one of my most anticipated books of 2018, which made starting it all the more nerve racking. I wanted to love it. The premise sounded amazing and fresh. The cover is stunning! Plus, there's nothing but high praise coming from the YA community about it. Thankfully, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone was fantastic - hands down one of the BEST books I've read this year! Heartbreaking yet vastly hopeful, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone is an eye opening look at how a Huntington’s diagnosis drastically changes two twin's lives. You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone is told in the alternating POVs of Adina and Tovah, two twins who couldn't be any more different. Charismatic as well as elusive, Adina is the twin everyone talks about yet no one truly knows. Adina is okay with that - she likes her hermit like existence, she'd rather focus on her music than live the typical teen experience. Tovah, on the other hand, is the sister that often blends into the background. Dedicated to her studies and becoming a doctor, Tovah has little time for nonsense or love. Tovah and Adina are complicated characters, ones who are more unlikable than likable; however, there's something about both that makes them incredibly compelling and easy to root for. I loved getting to know both. Out of the two, Adina was my favorite. She gives off a larger than life feel. Her emotions are dramatic and colorful. She's never someone to do something quietly, and I admired that about her. I loved her passion and dedication. Tovah, on the other hand, is quiet and more straight forwarded than Adina. Tovah's life focuses on following the "rules" - getting good grades, the right experiences, the best recommendations. She leaves little time to breathe and just experience life, and I could relate to that - I've been there before. The one aspect that I found the most interesting about Tovah and Adina was that they weren't best friends. In fact, they start off the book hating each other. Throughout the novel, I was dying to know what lead them to that point - what could make someone hate the person they shared the most with? To make it even worse, Tovah and Adina become even more estranged after the diagnosis. They do horrible things to each other- things that made my stomach turn. Yet at the same time, I felt that showcasing those events and their feelings made their characters more real, more gritty in a sense. The plot in You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone mainly revolves around the outcome of the test results. I knew a decent amount about Huntington’s disease prior to starting this, but there's such a difference between knowing the facts and seeing a family experience the disease. It was heartbreaking to witness Adina and Tovah's mother fall apart right in front of their eyes. I respected that Rachel Lynn Solomon didn't sugar coat anything when it came to that. In all, I could go on about this book all day, but I won't bore you with that. Instead, I'll live with you this: give this book a chance. I won't sugar coat it: it's a hard read, but it's so incredibly worth it. I loved so much, in fact, that I'll be pre-ordering a copy just so I can re-read it.