ALL THESE LIVESSarah Wylie
Contemporary Young Adult
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Available June 5th
Received from Books Complete Me for blog tour
THE STORY (from Goodreads)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.
MY THOUGHTSAll These Lives is one of those stories that presents us with a quick snapshot of a character’s life—no drawing us in with a beginning, complicating matters in the middle, and then dropping our jaws at the end, instead we arrive in the middle, spend some time, and leave still very much in the middle of the characters' timelines. Typically with this type of read emotional attachment is a bit shallower, our time with the protagonists so limited it's hard to feel as though we truly get to know them, finding ourselves at the very best able to sympathize with them before we reach the last page and are left to wonder what will come of them. Such is the case with All These Lives, our snippet of Dani’s life as she struggles to deal with her twin sister’s leukemia a quick and dark one, leaving us with heavy hearts as we watch one young woman self-destruct in an attempt to save another.
Dani is a tricky young heroine, springing from the story in the very first chapter with a rather blunt demeanor to slap us in the face and make us blink at our rather rocky introduction. While it’s clear she uses her attitude and her general disregard for the feelings of others as a coping mechanism for Jena's illness–feeling as though there’s no room in her for anything outside of the overwhelming guilt she feels for being the sister with lives to spare–her snide comments and standoffish personality prove to be armor we lack even the slightest ability to chink. Her misguided belief that she has nine lives (that if given up and released into the universe through death could find their way to someone like her sister who needs them) is challenging to read about, making us extremely uncomfortable and reinforcing Dani’s feelings of helplessness with regard to Jena by forcing us to acknowledge our own helplessness when it comes to saving Dani from herself.
All These Lives will likely appeal to those readers who enjoy realism without the pleasant safety of a sugar coating, where life is hard and at times brutal, and a miraculous happy ending, however desirable, isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Dani isn’t an easy protagonist on any level, and while we get tiny glimpses of vulnerability here and there, she fights us tooth and nail the entire way, making it crystal clear she would shove us from her life if she knew we were there just as roughly as she does those around her. As mentioned before, there’s no real beginning or end to this story, so we close the back cover without a definite future for Dani and Jena laid before us, but we do get some comfort in knowing Dani has learned from her nine-lives experiment and will perhaps start shedding some of that flawless armor moving forward.
As part of the All These Lives blog tour, Sarah is generously offering up a fantastic prize pack including:
- 1 SIGNED copy of All These Lives
- 3 All These Lives bookmarks
- Your choice of ANY 3 Apocalypsies books!
To enter, hop over to Sarah's Blog and fill out the form. Giveaway will run through 11pm EST on June 8th after which a winner will be chosen. Good luck everyone!