Dealing with mortality at a young age has always been a guaranteed emotional roller coaster in YA books, but All These Lives views a cancer diagnosis and its impact on the family from the viewpoint of the sister that is watching while her fraternal twin battles leukemia. Dani’s belief that she is somehow lucky while her sister is unlucky drives her to make some pretty unwise decisions. It’s almost as if she’s going through the bargaining stage of grief as she tries to find a way to give some of her “lives” to her sister, Jena. In between Dani’s attempts to cope with what is happening, you see a sisterly relationship that is very close and it is a relationship that has not escaped unscathed from the cancer diagnosis. I loved the way the book shows the reader the way each family member copes with Jena’s illness; mom finds religion and a talent for nursing, dad starts smoking and Dani hangs on to the belief that she can somehow transfer her luck to her sister.
This was a very touching book, but it also had moments of hilarity. Through the eyes of Dani we see the absurdity that life throws at you as she tries to function as if nothing is wrong. She goes to school, she auditions for commercials (something her mother wants) and uses her snarky sense of humor to cover the raw places in her life. This is isn’t the type of story where the main character has a profound epiphany and everyone is healed, but it is the type of story where you really get to know the way a family pulls together, even after something painful makes everyone want to break apart. This book was thoughtful and emotional with generous servings of humor and a very real, flawed and ultimately appealing main character.
I received this book as a galley from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.