Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review of ALL THESE LIVES by Sarah Wylie

Author: Sarah Wylie
Publish Date: June 5th 2012
Source: eARC from Macmillan via Net Galley

*I hereby award this book 4.5 wings!*

I first saw ALL THESE LIVES when I was requesting another book via Net Galley. It was the cover that drew me in. I love underwater covers and correct me if I am wrong but they seem a bit of a trend at the moment. There's just something about them. Simplistic beauty. 

When I read what this story was about, it was instantly intriguing - after all, it says that 16 year old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. So upon reading that sentence alone, I knew it was something I had to request there and then.

For those of you that don't already know what this book is about, here's the blurb 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."

ALL THESE LIVES is a hauntingly beautiful story. I was reminded of when I read My Sister's Keeper last year. It's definitely a book that you should keep a pack of tissues handy!

Dani is a fraternal twin. Her sister Jena has leukemia. The story is told from Dani's point of view and we see what it's like to live in a family where the sister is ill and the mother and father seem blind to anything that doesn't revolve around the sick daughter. That means that Dani seems to go unnoticed. Particularly by her mother.

Dani comes across as bitchy and maybe a bit self centred in the beginning. She taunts a boy in class by flirting with him and embarrassing him.  She does things like that just because she can.
But having thought that she was a bit spiteful, I soon learned that actually, she's acting out.  She's not getting much attention from anyone because everyone is always asking about Jena, taking care of Jena. No-one seems to stop and say "How are you feeling about things Dani?" "How's things Dani?" It's almost like she's invisible.

But there's more to this story than that.

Dani is sure that she has 9 lives. Or that she did have before she used a couple of them up in instances that perhaps any other person may have died. She survived a car accident. She survived a bad infection. 
Someone once told her that a cat has 9 lives and that each one they lose goes off into the universe for another cat to catch.
Having this theory in mind, Dani thinks that if she loses her lives, the ones that leave her may find their way to Jena. 
All Dani wants is for her sister to live. She says that without her, she wouldn't live either.  So Dani does stupid things to try and give her lives to her.

We see her drunk and stupid enough to get into the pool at home where she stays until her father finds her and drags her out. 1 life down. Will Jena feel better?
There's 2 sides to the things she does though. 1) She believes that she'll lose a life and Jena will catch it and 2) She's acting out. You're not sure which of the 2 is the reason she does them. Even though she says it's for Jena, and yes it is - also, you can see that she is just a lonely girl who wants some of the attention that seems to rain down on Jena. 

I love Dani as an MC. She's not a flawless image of a perfect sister, daughter, friend. No, she's got her flaws alright. But that's okay because she's only human. None of us can be accused of being perfect.  

She tries to be a good daughter - going to auditions because it's what her mother wants. Not telling her mother about her father smoking again because it's his only vice and it's something he does through stress over Jena.  She tries to be a good sister by giving her extra lives to Jena. 

So although we see her as a bit snarky, we also find that she has a good heart and tries to help people, even though it's at cost to herself. 

I won't lie, I had to cry at this story. It's very well written and has a beautiful, fluid, haunting storyline. It's one of those books that you read and no matter what you read after it, it's still going to be stuck in your mind. 

Sarah Wylie is definitely an author I will be looking out for more from in the future. 

Thank you to Macmillan and Net Galley for providing me this ARC. Thank you to Sarah Wylie for writing something so unusual in today's YA market. 

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