I was at a writing conference years ago when Lisa Yee and I met. It promised to be one of those fleeting moments. It was just me in line to have her sign my book. She paused to let me know about about a thing we had in common. Since then, our paths have crossed at numerous conferences, and starting with her Millicent Min series, I’ve forever been a fan. Except (and sorry, Lisa, if you’re reading this) I long ignored one book. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around its title. I won’t go into the reasons – that’s not the point of this post – but I wouldn’t have the book cover on my site unless I really loved The Kidney Hypothetical Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days (Scholastic/Levine).
Higgs Boson Bing leads a perfect existence. He’s poised to be his class’s valedictorian, has the ideal girlfriend, an acceptance letter to Harvard, and a sure-thing career as a dentist in his father’s successful practice. There’s just one thing he doesn’t have: the “right” answer to a hypothetical question. If I needed a kidney, his girlfriend asks during a senior class day-cruise, would you give me one of yours? That’s when Higgs rocks the boat and refuses to say what she wants to hear. Now, his girlfriend won’t talk to him, his best buddy has been banned from being his friend, his nemesis on the debate team has ambushed him, and that’s just the start. Suddenly, Higgs needs to question every little thing in his life, especially whether his future, once set for smooth sailing, is what he really wants.
I loved this book on two levels. As a reader, quite simply, this is a funny, quirky, utterly honest YA that explores the meaning of living an authentic life.
As a writer, I came away inspired to be braver in dealing harshly with my main characters. For the record, I read much of this story squinting through my fingers, not wanting more horrors to befall our hero. But they came and they came and they came and they came. And while I, personally, have a hugely hard time putting my characters into ugly and unwise predicaments, The Kidney Hypothetical, like no other book, convinced me to be meaner to them. It made the ending that much more rewarding.
So thank you, Lisa, for a fun, perfectly uncomfortable, honest, squirm-inducing, completely satisfying read. Sorry it took so long. I’ll be first in line to buy your next book, no matter the title.
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(As always, thanks to Barrie Summy for organizing her awesome book review club.)