All These Lives by Sarah Wylie intrigued me from the beginning, but I did not expect to like it as much as I did. Ultimately, it ended up being a touching and at times even humorous read which I got through quickly. Danielle, or Dani, and Jena (don’t ever call her Jenavieve) are sixteen year old twins. Jena was always the more outgoing of the two, until she was diagnosed with leukemia. Now she is the one her parents dote on and spend all their time with.
Dani’s problem is not that she’s jealous though, that would be too obvious and easy to fix. In reality, she’s guilty. Because for as long as she can remember, her mom has (jokingly?) called Dani the girl with nine lives due to the fact that she has survived multiple incidents where she *should* have died. She never said that to Jena though, and now Jena’s one life is wasting away. Dani can’t even donate bone marrow to her twin. With these thoughts and a family legend constantly on her mind, Dani begins to act out and becomes increasingly reckless. In her desire to help her sister’s life, she endangers her own, possibly going too far.
I didn’t like Dani at first. I wanted to hear more about Jena’s struggle, not Dani’s conflict of wills with her mom and how she makes so many sacrifices for her poor sick sister. Really, the beginning of the book was rather difficult to get through. But after the premise has been thoroughly set up and you finally get to understand the characters’ relationships with one another, and the reasoning behind why they do what they do…Dani grew on me. Her character is not very relatable, but perhaps her life and mine are just so different that anyone in her position would be unrelatable to me. Her sarcasm became endearing, and the way she tells the story drew me in. Myth, history, and the present are woven together to tell a story I am glad I read. There aren’t any really big-picture meanings here, but that’s okay. It’s a good book, without having to get too deep or depressing, as many novels that talk about cancer do.
All These Lives gets 4 out of 5 stars.