All These Lives by Sarah Wylie Review

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Title: All These Lives
Author: Sarah Wylie (Twitter)
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: June 5, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 245
Source: Publisher

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.

15 comments:

  1. Sometimes, the books that take me some time to get into are the ones I enjoy the most strangely.

    Fantastic review, Melissa! <33

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    1. Thanks, Melanie! It's an oddball of a book, but it totally works!

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  2. I love the cover of this but never picked it up for some reason. I really love the sound of this one, both in terms of plot and character, so I'll have to check it out. Wonderful review, Melissa!

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    1. Same here, Keertana. It just never screamed at me to pick it up. I am, however, glad that I finally did :)

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  3. I didn't know this book has something to do with cancer. But I'm glad to hear this one is written very well. I love the sound how the author took things realistically here. I'll have to check this out. Brilliant review! :)

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    1. haha neither did I, Eunice! I was completely caught off guard, but it was well done, for sure.

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  4. I enjoyed your review. I also enjoyed this book when I read it, but I realized it really didn't stick with me. I don't remember much about it at all. That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it, just a general comment.

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    1. Yeah, I can understand that, too. I'm not sure it was the most profound read ever, but it was definitely well-written and thorough :)

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  5. I think it's good that the author chose not to romanticize cancer and instead went the realistic route. That's a hard plunge to take, but I'm glad it paid off and the book works well as a whole. Love the review, Melissa :D

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    1. Thanks, Becca! It's definitely a different take on the cancer-type story, but it was really well done!

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  6. My heart. Siblings and family and cancer. I really need to read this one. Fantastic review, Melissa!

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  7. Sounds like a great story, once you get into the writing style / pacing. Nice review! I've been curious about ATL, and I'll definitely try to check it out now.

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  8. Cancer can be a tricky subject as you say. I find it hard to read about because of family reasons. It sounds like Dani has a lot of guilt for being the healthy twin. I love realistic fiction so maybe this would work for me in spite of the tragic situation. Great review, Melissa. :)

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  9. The nine lives part is so unusually, does Dani really believe that? Even though I intentionally don't read cancer related books, but I would be very interested in knowing more about Dani and her thought process. Wonderful review, Melissa! :)

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  10. This is another one that I either haven't heard of or maybe have forgotten over the course of the year? The cancer stories are really tricky, like you say, and I think it's the ones that are really dynamic and profound that I'd rather read. That sounds selfish, but I don't mean it to be. They just tend to take so much out of me because of all of the cancer I've head to deal with in my own life with my family. I probably would bypass this one, but I appreciate the review. :)

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