September 24, 2012

Review of All These Lives by Sarah Wylie


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.

All These Lives by Sarah Wylie
Publication Date:  June 5, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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** This title was provided to us by the publisher for an honest review.
We were in no way paid for our opinions ** 

In All These Lives by Sarah Wylie, we follow main character Dani, as she struggles to come to grips with the fact that her twin sister, Jena, has Leukemia.  We follow Dani, as she attempts, on multiple occasions, to take her life so that her sister can live.  How is that possible, you ask?  Dani has this theory.  She believes she has nine lives…yes like a cat.  Dani remembers being told that when a cat loses one of its nine lives, that life that was lost goes to another cat that gets another chance to live.  Does that make sense?  I’m probably explaining it all wrong…but it’s the gist of it.  So basically, Dani is on a mission to get her nine lives down in hopes that one of her “lives” will be the one that will help her sister live.

The story breaks down into a sort of countdown.  A countdown of how many lives Dani thinks she has left.  We see different ways that Dani tries to take her life.  We watch the downward spiral that Dani is going through and see first hand her desperation to have her sister live.

Although the story primarily revolves around Dani and Jena, we are also shown the effects of Jena’s illness on the rest of the family.  We see the different struggles that their parents go through in dealing with Jena’s Leukemia, and in raising their second daughter.  We also see the attempts made to try and live a normal life and take it one day at a time.

When I first started reading All These Lives, I was taken aback with Sarah Wylie’s writing.  I could feel the pain and desperation that Dani felt throughout the pages.  Where her only wish was that her sister would live.  To read the different ways that Dani tries to kill herself, I didn’t think that I would be able to finish reading it, knowing that eventually, I would come across another attempt at her own life.  But as the pages went on, and the story progressed, I found that each attempt brought me closer to the character of Dani, and it allowed me an even closer glimpse at the pain and suffering she endures.

Dani is a quirky and funny character, but when reading All These Lives, it becomes quite obvious that Dani uses her humour to hide her pain.  My heart went out to her.  My heart went out to the family.  There were times where I felt like I was a stranger who was intruding in some intimate, dark moments.  But it was these intimate moments where I really started to understand what was going through Dani’s mind.

If you’re looking for a happy go lucky YA contemporary read…this is so not for you, but readers will walk away with something after reading All These Lives.

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  1. Juhina

    This novel was definitely different than usual YA novels. I really enjoyed it; I agree about the desperation and pain through Wylie’s writing. It was an overall very enjoyable novel that really showed family bondings.

    great review!

    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  2. Chapter by Chapter

    Thanks Juhina! Absolutely agree with you with showing family bonding!

  3. This sounds like a good read. Something a little more on the emotional side, which is what I look for in contemporary reads. The fact that you could feel the pain that Dani was going through… I am in!

  4. Pragya

    Hmm, this does look interesting. Maybe I will pick it up. Thanks for the great review.

  5. kimbacaffeinate

    Oh gosh, this sounds heartbreaking..will need tissues for this!

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