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All These Lives

All These Lives

3.3 10
by Sarah Wylie

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wylie's memorable first novel candidly addresses an impending death with witty, poetic language. Ever since surviving a car crash and a chest infection as a child, 16-year-old Dani has been told that she's a miracle. Dani interprets her fortitude as evidence that she literally has nine lives. But Dani's twin, Jena, is dying from leukemia, and Dani thinks her parents are acting disturbingly normal under the circumstances. Dani distances herself from her straight-talking best friend, bullies her nerdy crush, numbly attends therapy sessions, and parties hard, using her caustic sense of humor to disguise her helplessness. She persuades herself that by ridding herself of her extra "lives," she can transfer them to her sister. The striking prologue prepares readers for one of Dani's suicide attempts, which take place in each of the book's nine sections, creating an excruciatingly tense countdown. Though Dani's belief about having nine lives isn't fully developed, Wylie gives voice to a spectrum of emotions associated with grief, her heroine's indignation over the injustice of death lancing through any hint of sentimentality. Ages 12–up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (June)
From the Publisher

“[a] gripping chronicle of the way one girl grapples with domestic catastrophe.” —Kirkus

“Memorable.” —Publishers Weekly

“…fans of compelling family dramas will be glad that [Dani's] finally choosing to live her own life rather than giving it away.” —BCCB, starred

“…realistic and poignant.” —VOYA

“…will speak to teens…” —School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Elizabeth Fronk
Dani has a twin sister, Jena who has cancer. Dani is frustrated and disappointed that she cannot help her sister. As Dani struggles about her sister and the disease's effect on the family, she also struggles with math class and her acting audition. In her math class, Dani gets Jack Penner as a partner. Jack is a longtime friend and somewhat of a nerd, yet he remains a good friend to Dani in spite of her poor attitude toward him. Dani tries to cope with her parents' denial by carelessly breaking her wrist. As Jena may not be getting well, the family decides to take a vacation in an RV. As the trip ends and Dani's project gets near completion, she comes to understand her parents more and to accept Jena's illness. While this first-person novel has much potential, the story's romance never fully develops and Dani's angry preoccupation with her "lives" wears thin. The wry tone in Dani's voice is a good one for dealing with such an overwhelming illness; however, Dani's anger and inability to cope overshadows the romance between her and Jack. High school girls might enjoy Dani's efforts to cope with her sister's illness and her frustrations with her parents. Reviewer: Elizabeth Fronk
VOYA - Twila A. Sweeney
After Jena's leukemia diagnosis, her family handles her illness believably, but Jena should have appeared more in the story. Dani's nine-lives fixation becomes silly, especially as she is never badly hurt, and no one really notices. Dani's final understanding that she must continue to live after Jena says she is tired of watching her die is unexpected and powerful. The end is perfect, as Jena remains ill, instead of the expected sappy death, allowing readers to believe she might beat leukemia. Reviewer: Twila A. Sweeney, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
Dani and her mother have experienced many horrific accidents, but always emerge unharmed. This causes Dani to believe that people possess nine lives; however, after her fraternal twin, Jena, contracts leukemia at sixteen, Dani recklessly tests her conviction. Her parents preoccupied with Jena, Dani is largely left on her own, and her grief and fright produce her assumption that removing her extra lives will cause one to find and save Jena. Growing increasingly unstable, Dani barely attends school, with life-ending attempts including drowning, driving a motorcycle into a tree, a drug overdose, and more, but all injuries are minor. Dani sees a therapist, but sessions are unhelpful. Conversely, after Jena sharply and sagely states she is furious with these vain death attempts, Dani is shocked into realizing further tries could have real consequences, and she must accept Jena's leukemia while providing true sisterly support. Narrated by Dani, this is more her story than Jena's, who is unfortunately rarely seen. Jena's absence somewhat downplays leukemia's seriousness, although the handling of her illness is realistic and poignant. Dani's nine-lives theory begins plausibly considering her past experiences, but her multiple death attempts become tiresome, with her incompetent therapist and school absences attracting too little adult attention. Younger females will feel Dani's consuming pain, anger, guilt, and helplessness, exacerbated by her incompatible blood type excluding bone marrow donation. Jena relays heart-rending acceptance and knowledge of her illness, while the story's end shows the sisters' fighting spirits. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett
Kirkus Reviews
Surely a girl with nine lives can spare one or even a few for her leukemia-stricken twin sister, right? Ever since Danielle and her mother survived a horrific car crash, her mother has made her "nine lives" part of the family legend. Now 16, she's used only a couple. Wracked with guilt that she is not a donor match for a bone-marrow transplant for her sister, Dani has been turning off and acting out. When Jena seems to improve after Dani, drunk, drowns by accident (six lives left), Dani becomes more purposeful. As her lives count down, she marks time by bullying nerdy Jack in math class and desultorily auditioning for a toothpaste commercial (her mom's dream, not hers). Her real preoccupation is the seismic shift Jena's illness has wrought upon her family. Her mother has become a cancer expert, her father has taken up smoking again, and the formerly athletic Jena just holes up in her room when she's not at the hospital or getting chemo. Brilliantly, Dani's chillingly acute present-tense narration doesn't provide much in the way of exposition or back story but lodges readers directly in Dani's grindingly miserable present, giving them glimpses of the smart, funny girl she used to be. Though it breaks little new ground, it is a tight, even gripping chronicle of the way one girl grapples with domestic catastrophe. (Fiction. 12 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—As an infant, Dani survived a horrible car crash. Hearing this story and others just like it have convinced her that she has nine lives-and right now they may come in handy because her twin sister has been diagnosed with leukemia. Jena needs a bone-marrow transplant to survive, but Dani isn't a match and feels helpless. From her mom's constant hovering and her dad's secret smoking to Dani's belligerent attitude, the entire family copes as best they can. After hearing a story about a cat's nine lives floating out in the atmosphere to help other cats, Dani gets an idea: she'll give her extra lives to Jena. She embarks on a series of risky endeavors, each one designed to take one of her lives. But what she doesn't see is how her destructive behavior is causing her parents even more heartache. One disastrous night Jena becomes seriously ill, and though Dani handles everything from calling paramedics to getting her to the hospital, she feels responsible. She decides it's time to give all her remaining lives to Jena by doing something seriously dangerous. In the end, Dani learns that the best way to help her sister is to be there for her. Narrated in Dani's somewhat sarcastic voice, the story shows how living with a terminally ill person affects every family member. Details about illness are revealed as needed. Interesting without being syrupy, the story will speak to teens who may be going through similar tough family situations.—Diana Pierce, Leander High School, TX

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

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Read an Excerpt




Once upon a time, my mother used to sleep through the night. So did I. Like so much else, our sleeping patterns were almost identical. We flung ourselves across our beds, sleeping through storms and hurricanes and car alarms and darkness, and waking up to a trail of sunlight filtering in, with the world still on its axis, still turning, the way we’d left it. She hasn’t slept like that in seven months.

Now, she wakes up around two in the morning, as if to get a head start on all those elements. Or maybe she’s figured out that the world tilts slightly when we sleep, and she gets up to watch it and try to pull it back in place.

I just lie there when I’m awake, trying to stay silent and hidden.

I’m sure my dad is aware that she barely sleeps, but it’s not like he can get up and keep watch with her since he has to go to work in the morning.

None of us knows exactly what she does when she wakes up.

Maybe she gets on her knees and holds vigil since she realized she believed in God the day my twin sister was diagnosed with leukemia. Or maybe she goes on the computer to look up cures. I personally think she’s practicing some weird voodoo technique where she transfers all the cancer from Jena into her own body, so it can eat away at her cells and make her shriveled and ugly, and we can watch her die instead.

Once upon a time—back when she still slept—I didn’t take my mother seriously. She would tell the same story over and over again. Tires squealing, flying through air, shattered glass, crushed metal. We were under crushed metal. Her and me.

She and I.

I was three months old when the accident happened. We were out of milk or something, and my mother asked Dad to watch Jena, while she took me out with her. Mom and I were just leaving the grocery store when a pickup truck ran into our car, destroying it.

We should have died.

I’ve never known what was more significant: the fact that we both survived, or the fact that she picked me.

I’ve heard the story so many times it feels like my memory instead of hers, even though I was too young to have a memory. When she told it to other people, she never ended at the part I would have, the part where we survived the car accident. Where we walked away without a scratch. She always went on to talk about the time her foot got caught in train tracks, how she struggled to get free, and how if it had happened five seconds later, she would have died. And the fire in her apartment building two years before she met my dad—oh, did you hear about it? Everyone had heard about it. Six people dead, including her neighbors on both sides, and it happened ten minutes after she left for work one morning.

She talked about the chest infection I got when I was two. I was in the hospital for days, and I should have died.

When I was little and fell and scraped my knee, my mother would always whisper the same thing in my ear. Other mothers said, “Shh, it’s okay,” and coaxed the tears away with a soft-serve cone. Mine said, “Come on, Danielle. You’re the girl with nine lives. You take after me.”

I don’t think she ever whispered that in Jena’s ear. That’s the difference.

I always pretended to believe her just so she would leave me alone, but I knew my mother was full of crap. I knew not to take her seriously. Her words floated above my ears, leaped out of windows and into trees, were carried away by birds and dusty-winged moths and other things I knew to be true.

Then Jena happened.

Nothing and everything is true. We are papier-mâché in a world with a cardboard sun. There is no such thing as cold or heat or time. We are all the same people, constantly being reborn and redying, and every time we think it’s the first.

A month ago, we found out Jena’s treatment isn’t working like they’d hoped and that she needs bone marrow. We thought I’d be the one to help her. I have marrow and plenty of bone and I am her twin.

But we are too different and the doctors can’t break me into splintered little fragments to save Jena. Mom and Dad aren’t a match either, but I am her twin.

Everything Mom had ever said crept back in under the door of my room, tucked itself in my ears when I was sleeping. I hid it under the pillows and breathed it in at night. I couldn’t fall asleep either. And I can’t forget.

Am I the girl with nine lives?

I wish I could forget.

One of the times Mom told her story—about when we’d survived, our nine lives—my Uncle Stephan was visiting. He was some college professor that was a friend of my dad’s, one of those people you call “uncle” without ever knowing why, without them earning the title. Abandoning his standard topic of conspiracy theories for a while, he started talking about all the explanations for the nine lives myth. He said that every time a cat loses one of its lives, that life is released into the universe, to be caught by another cat. Not all cats are born with nine lives, but those that aren’t can keep as many as they can catch. One extra life, or two, or three.

As one life shortens, the other expands.

Now my mother tries to stay awake, while I try to fall asleep.

My eyelids finally collapse on themselves just as the sun feels it’s safe to come out of hiding. It’s less than two hours before school starts, but that’s the way it always goes.

The next thing I know, Mom is shaking me awake and joking about how much I like my beauty sleep. I play along, turning over and waiting until the last possible minute to get up and go.

By the time I shower and get downstairs, the only other person I’ve seen today is Mom. Dad’s already at work.

“Morning, Danielle.” I jump when I hear Jena’s voice from the top of the stairs. I always aim to be out of the house before she’s awake.

“Hey,” I say. She’s leaning against the railing, looking down at me.

I’ve never understood why anyone would mix Jena and me up. We are fraternal twins, and since elementary school, I’ve been about an inch taller. My hair is long, brunette, and straight, while hers was wavy, sort of a mousy brown.

“I’m late for the bus.”

She frowns, because she knows I’m not, but I’ve already grabbed my backpack, deciding against breakfast, and am heading toward the front door.

It is bright out, but cold. Dirty, weeks-old snow is slathered unevenly over the ground like a moldy spread on an open-face sandwich.

When the bus finally pulls up at the stop down the street from my house, I drag my way to the back, placing my backpack in the seat beside me, and pressing my face against the window, eyes shut, until we get to school.


Text copyright © 2012 by Sarah Wylie

Meet the Author

Sarah Wylie has been writing for as long as she can remember. In May 2011, she graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a degree in Neuroscience. She lives in Canada. All These Lives is her first novel.

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All These Lives 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Dazzlamb More than 1 year ago
Dani is devastated about her sister having cancer. She is convinced she has nine lives and should be the one to offer all of hers for the one life her sister seems barely able to hold on to. It must be a tough fate to deal with the looming death of one of your closest confidantes. ALL THESE LIVES is told from Dani's perspective in a first person point of view. We see how much Jena's weakness and pain upsets her and forces her to take fate and the life of her sister into her own hands. Dani wants to save her sister by giving away her own lives, of which she believes to possess nine. Her story is filled with dares and many risky stunts and near-death experiences. Where I first found the concept of her having nine lives intriguing, I never found a tangible point to feel like the things she was doing made sense. The whole story just didn't work for me, seeming dubious, inordinate and generally confusing. While Sarah's first book just wasn't for me and I highly missed a memorable romance, I'll still be keeping my eyes on her next book, SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH YOU, coming out in 2014. 2/5 ** ALL THESE LIVES - A profound sisterly bond, the fear of losing the other and very absurd ways to express your support. Sarah Wylie's debut novel might have been a quick read for me, but not one that will stay with me for long. The cover was what drew me towards this book on Netgalley and the concept of Dani having nine lives was an intriguing feature, but in the end I couldn't find many points to connect with her, the other characters and her breakneck behaviour and irritating ways of thinking.
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BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
This is such a neat premise for a contemporary book. It has the elements that I love of strong family ties, nerdy boys, a lead I can connect with, and the sadness that tugs my heart of a character will an illness. Sarah Wylie really knows how to write emotions, and she also knows how to break the tension with the sarcastic and quirky main character and her picking on said nerdy boy. The idea about the nine lives, and being able to release a life and have it save someone else is something that I have never heard of. It is interesting how much that Dani, the main character is willing to give up for her sister, pieces of herself with trying to release the lives, emotionally through the relationship they have. My review wouldn't be complete without talking about Jack Penner. He really made my day. Those nerdy guys really make me as hot as a bad guy with the soft heart towards the love interest when done right, and Ms. Wylie definitely did Jack right. I love how Dani teases him, and his responses, and how he eventually grows into it, and how their relationship goes. I appreciate how he stayed a friend when Dani needed one, even when she tried to push people away. Although I must say that Spencer and Candy really made me scratch my head. I am not sure exactly their purpose, although I guess I am okay with them being there as plot advancers. Or maybe in my baby and preschooler fried brain I am just not connecting all the right dots. I also wanted more conclusion from the ending, it felt really open, and I really wanted to know how Ms. Wylie wanted the characters stories to end. I guess, though there is a certain poetic justice to leaving the interpretation of what happens to the reader and basing those conclusions from what we've read so far.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
majibookshelf More than 1 year ago
All These Lives has a very emotional story wrapped up in a hard shell that is known as Dani. Dani's twin sister Jena has leukemia, and Dani doesn't know how to deal with it, so she avoids Jena. However, since Dani has been young, she has gotten into many near death experiences and escaped unscathed. Her mom kept on saying that she has 9 lives, nothing bad can happen to her Dani because she's apparently got lives to spare. Somehow Dani gets the idea that if she gets rid of some of these lives, at least one of them will get transferred to Jena and saves her life. While this aspect might seem paranormal, but the emotional turmoil Dani goes through, how fragile her family is. It was all so raw and real and just heart wrenching. I thoroughly enjoyed the family relationship. The mother that would do anything to save her sick child. The father who is trying to keep the glue that holds the family together but also sneaks outside for a cigarette or two. Dani, and finally Jena, the leukemia patient, but also a girl with a strong will to survive and to stay as Jena. I loved how nothing dramatic happened in the family, they are a typical family with a sick child. I really enjoyed how realistic it was. While Dani might have seemed like the tough one, she harbors deep feelings of guilt, sadness, and just being scared of how will she go on without Jena. I loved Sarah Wylie's writing. It was simple, honest, and just had that realistic feel to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, the characters, and the overall story of All These Lives. I would recommend it to realistic YA lovers, and anyone looking for a story that speaks from the heart to your heart, because All These Lives did just that.
Algonquins More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book thinking it was going to be a more paranormal read but I was surprised when it ended up having absolutely no aspects like that at all. The summary was very misleading but I ended up finishing the book anyway. My first complaint is that Dani was an extremely whiny protagonist and throughout the book she only proceeded to grow more annoying. Nothing ever made her happy even something good happening to her. I also thought the small romance that began blossoming between jack and dani should have been explored more. however overall I did enjoy the book even though it wasn't what I had expected. I think despite a few weak characters and a loosely tied up ending the book was worth a read at least once. I can't say I would recommend it though.
BookPortrait More than 1 year ago
Really 3.5 stars Confession time: I have a soft spot for books with beautiful covers and stories that tug on your heartstrings. Because of that, I was really looking forward to reading All These Lives. Although this book didn't turn out to be exactly what I was expecting, it certainly brought a fresh voice to the YA market as well as a worthwhile story. Jena has cancer, and she doesn't seem to be getting any better. Dani, her twin sister, would give anything to help her, but Dani isn't a match to donate bone marrow for the transplant Jena needs. Instead, Dani looks for other ways to help her sister. Her mother has always said that they have nine lives, and Dani hopes that maybe she can transfer some of them to her sister. As her family tries to cope with their reality, Dani begins taking big risks, trying her best to release some of her lives into the universe. However, with all of the tension of living life constantly waiting for good news, something has to give. And Dani might find that she gives up one life too many... All These Lives certainly has an interesting premise - could some people really have nine lives or are they just extraordinarily lucky? Dani has walked away from situations that other people wouldn't have, but how far does that grace extend? This book tests that in an interesting way. It has a different view on how cancer affects people. The family struggled to be normal, but instead they were only a hairsbreadth away from dysfunction. Despite that, there were moments where they pulled together and their relationships, especially between Dani and Jena, shone through. Dani was quite a dynamic character; she had a unique, fresh voice that certainly made its impact. I enjoyed her snark and her good-natured teasing of Jack. At the same time, however, she was occasionally difficult and appeared more callous than sympathetic. By the end of the book, however, the depth of her emotion and her love for her sister shone through and gave the book a very powerful ending. However, this book did leave me wanting more. While I appreciated that romance didn't take over the story, it seemed as though the possibility was there but left unexplored for the most part. I also would have loved to have seen more of the relationship between Dani and Jena. The cancer may have been secondary to Dani's personal journey, but she seemed so alone for most of the story. It would have been nice to see her have a better support system. All of that being said, Dani does grow a great deal throughout the course of the story, and her eventual realization was a good one. All These Lives is a moving story about making the most out of life. I'll be curious to see what Sarah Wylie writes next!
Icecream18JA More than 1 year ago
Dani has always been the lucky one. Her mother jokes that she and Dani have nine lives. What happens when her twin sister, Jena, contracts cancer and may not have nine lives. After all, she was never the lucky one. Dani chooses to deal with her sister's cancer in an unusual way. She goes out of her way to try to lose her lives, hoping that one of them might go to Jena. She undergoes ridiculous trials and lands herself in trouble and in the hospital, but she does not seem to care. The reader will follow this train wreck of a character throughout the book, an interesting plot of self-discovery and acceptance. It is interesting that the author manages to keep the book more about Dani and less about cancer; rather, she focuses on Dani and her love for her sister. The reader will likely love that this is not one of those cookie-cutter books where a family member loses a love one to cancer. Dani's character is the main draw to this novel. She is careless with her precious health, seeming to think herself invincible. The reader will get to know her quite well. Ironically, the reader barely knows Jena. Jena is viewed and thought of through the eyes of Dani. Dani's perspective and thoughts guide the reader through this novel. The other characters fit in perfectly. Dani acquires a love interest she never thought she would have, Dani's parents react to Jena's cancer in their own ways, and Dani's destructive way of dealing with Jena's cancer is only noticed by a couple of characters. The plot is interesting. We all would love to have nine lives, but not many of us would actually test that theory. The ending might not be what the reader may have guessed, but satisfying nonetheless. This book is highly recommended to young adult/teen readers.