Christina (A Reader of Fictions)'s Reviews > All These Lives

All These Lives by Sarah Wylie
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's review
Mar 13, 2012

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bookshelves: netgalley
Read from June 08 to 14, 2012

Review originally posted here.

All These Lives in the latest in my Apocalypsies challenge. Wylie has a deft prose style with its own unique tempo. The writing is fairly simple, but in a natural way, not in a talking down to teens or the author doesn't know any better kind of way. The diction and syntax is so clearly Dani. This is the kind of story that has to be told in first person.

Dani is a serious ball-buster. Put simply, she's a bitch. She doesn't obey her parents, she delivers killer insults to any classmates dumb enough to antagonize her (I LOVE when she tells people off), and she doesn't do her homework. In her desperation and sadness over Jena, she has but one joy in life: flirting salaciously with Jack Penner, nerd. Their relationship definitely was my favorite thing about the novel. They had this awesome, highly awkward dynamic. Plus, you know how I love my nerdy boys!

As bad (or badass) as Dani is, I got the distinct sense that pre-cancer Jena was worse, that Jena was the one who would instigate trouble, and that Dani desperately wanted to be as cool as her fraternal twin. My theory is that as Jena receded Dani began imitating her personality, perhaps to an exaggerated degree, either to inspire Jena to recover or to make her feel as though Jena was still with her at school. However, nothing's really said about how Dani used to be. All you get are vague hints of the past. Trying to piece together life before was definitely a favorite aspect of the book.

All These Lives is about cancer, so I probably don't need to tell you that it's not exactly an upper or a beach read. Much of it is insanely depressing. What I love, though, is that you get to see echoes of the real Jena emerge sometimes on good days. You don't get to see that for a while, and the story definitely picked up when I got to know Jena as a person, not just a pile of blankets. The cast of important characters is very small (Dani, Jena, parents, and Jack), but they're all very well-drawn. It's especially cool that the characters develop throughout the series, both actually and just through Dani's perception of them.

The one thing that didn't work for me was the concept unfortunately. Dani is convinced, because of a joke her mother made when about how they both had nine lives since they survived a couple of accidents, that she really has nine lives. She also heard some folklore about cats having a differing amount of lives and that, when one lost a life, the life could go to another cat. Because of this, she decides she needs to 'lose' her lives, so that her sister can live longer. This just took the whole invincibility of youth thing too far for me. The whole thing was so inconceivable to me (at least in the real world; it might work in a fairy tale setting) that I felt myself drawing away from Dani. I had trouble relating to her, even though I adored her bitchiness, because I could not comprehend her thought process.

Depending on how you feel about the premise, All These Lives could be a much better read for you. Wylie's novel offers a unique lens on dealing with cancer in a loved one. As an added bonus, Wylie avoids YA tropes, and does her own thing. Though this wasn't a perfect read for me personally, I definitely intend to read more Wylie!

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Quotes Christina (A Reader of Fictions) Liked

“Most people think the biggest sacrifice, the greates act of love you can give is to die for someone. And probably it is. But Sometimes it is the opposite. The biggest thing you can do for someone is to live.”
Sarah Wylie, All These Lives

“This is how it feels to die: It starts from outside and works its way in.”
Sarah Wylie, All These Lives

“Even now, it's still hard for him to say it. I don't blame him. It's an icky word. Why couldn't whoever was in charge of naming things call cancer 'sugar' and sugar, 'cancer'? People might not eat so much of the stuff then. And it's so much more pleasant to die of sugar.”
Sarah Wylie, All These Lives

Reading Progress

06/13/2012 page 182

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