Author: Sarah Wylie (Twitter)
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: June 5, 2012
Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away.To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one.
Dani's lucky. She seems to avoid death every chance she gets. Jena, her twin, however, is not so lucky. While Dani seems to thwart death's attempts to capture her, Jena's cancer is causing her to knock at death's door, and there is nothing that anybody can do about it. Or can they? Convinced that she has multiple lives and that she, alone, holds the key to her sister's survival, Dani sets about finding a way to give her sister her multiple lives. But life isn't so cut and dried, and sometimes the best of intentions can't even save us in the end.
All These Lives presents a challenge for many a YA reader. Offering what could be a very tried-and-true take on contemporary fiction by giving us a novel that centers around cancer, the book winds us in with a careful, steady hand until we're unable to let go. Author, Sarah Wylie, takes a unique approach to the book though. Rather than offering readers bittersweet sentimentality and saccharine sadness, she gives us a main character that's losing hope, a family that's falling apart and a world that's every bit as bleak as you might think. All These Lives is a maelstrom of emotions, but it leaves the cliches at the door and welcomes you wholeheartedly into reality.
I took my sweet time reading this story, though I've had the book on my shelf for over a year now. It's not that I didn't love the premise though. It's merely the fact that cancer is a tricky topic to tackle in young adult fiction. I find that, more often that not, we get either super sad, tacky and, ultimately irrelevant tales. Or, we're given a story that spins you into a web of flawless prose and literary prowess. All These Lives kind of takes the road less traveled in this respect. It leaves the shock value at the door and, instead, gives us the bleak, cold-hearted truths of this deadly disease through the story of a flawed, but relatable, main character. Dani was a tricky character to get a handle on at first. She never seemed to be able to make up her mind, and her own story is riddled with indecision. At first, it made it difficult to relate to her because I wanted her to just make up her dang mind. However, we slowly watch as she makes mistake after mistake, and we realize that that is the true beauty of her character. Her recklessness is her remedy to the pain and fear that she feels toward her sister's disease. Furthermore, the reactions and interactions between all the characters within the novel felt genuine and real. We watch as her mother turns to prayer to save herself from pain, her father withdraws from it all and Dani is just masking every ounce of pain with attitude and fierce pride. I will admit that All These Lives had a bit of a slow start for me though. The author writes in very subtle and carefully crafted prose that seems slow just for the sake of being slow at first. However, as I moved on through the novel, it began to resonate more. The writing, though quiet and and rather minimalist is in stark contrast to much of the rest of the genre, giving it a truly honest and pure narrative to a bleak, hopeless story.
Overall, I was ultimately impressed with All These Lives. Despite the fact that it took me a bit to get into the story, I think it was ultimately really well done, and I look forward to reading more from the author. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans YA, especially those who enjoy realistic contemporary fiction.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.