Review: The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days

23013680Title: The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days
Author: Lisa Yee
Genres: contemporary, realistic
Pages: 272
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Availability: March 31st, 2015

Summary: Higgs Boson Bing has seven days left before his perfect high school career is completed. Then it’s on to Harvard to fulfill the fantasy portrait of success that he and his parents have cultivated for the past four years. Four years of academic achievement. Four years of debate championships. Two years of dating the most popular girl in school. It was, literally, everything his parents could have wanted. Everything they wanted for Higgs’s older brother Jeffrey, in fact.

But something’s not right. And when Higgs’s girlfriend presents him with a seemingly innocent hypothetical question about whether or not he’d give her a kidney… the exposed fault lines reach straight down to the foundations of his life… [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: All cards on the table — when I heard that Lisa Yee was coming out with The Kidney Hypothetical, I fell out of my chair. That’s how psyched I was for it. I mean, Yee’s book Millicent Min, Girl Genius was one of my favorite books in middle school, right up there with Harry Potter. So I had high expectations going into this… and I wasn’t disappointed.

In The Kidney Hypothetical, Higgs Boson Bing is this perfect high-achieving kid on his way to Harvard, until he flunks a hypothetical question posed to him by his girlfriend. Then, suddenly, his life isn’t so perfect… He manages to ruin his life in seven days, and this feat is narrated from his perspective. That he manages to still come across as a fleshed-out, flawed-yet-lovable character is impressive. Even as you get to know him (he’s a cocky know-it-all! but also a huge gardening nerd! awww), you see him grow as a character in the span of the seven days of the book. In fiction, character growth often feels either contrived, or completely neglected. Higgs is the exception — maturation happens, and it works.

The Kidney Hypothetical is definitely a fun, light-hearted read with moments of depth driven by Higgs’s relationships. Higgs may be the focus, but his family and friends all come across as fully-realized characters with stories of their own. For instance, I would love to read a follow-up book about Higgs’s sister Charlie…

Having gone to fairly competitive high school (86% Asian and nearly everyone except me took SAT classes), Higgs’s hyper-competitive attitude and cultural background resonated with me. I’m used to enjoying books without relating to them. I’m not a rich boarding school kid, or a vampire socialite, or a white girl fighting to take down a dystopian government. And I’m no Harvard-bound high-achieving teenage boy named after a particle, either, but I could relate — for once, I could relate.

When I was in middle school, I wasn’t a genius named Millicent Min, but I was an Asian girl searching for someone like me on the library shelves, and I found it. Reading The Kidney Hypothetical was another one of those moments.

Recommendation: Buy it when it comes out on March 31st, 2015!

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