Nine Lives, Nine Times to Die: All These Lives by Sarah Wylie

I feel like I’m becoming a bit of a connoisseur of Cancer Kid books lately. This year has been packed with them–The Fault in Our Stars, Me & Earl, The Probability of Miracles, and Gone, Gone, Gone all come to mind immediately. These books have been varying levels of funny and touching, and they have been books told by kids with cancer and by friends and relatives of kids with cancer. The amount of variation has managed to keep me from getting totally worn out on this topic, but I do think it has also raised my standards.

With all that said, Sarah Wylie’s All These Lives was yet another interesting twist on the cancer kid premise, but it left me feeling emotionally underwhelmed. In Wylie’s debut, sixteen-year-old Dani believes that she has nine lives, while her twin sister only has one, which is currently being threatened by cancer. If Dani uses up a few of her lives, maybe they will go out into the world and help Jena.

Dani’s unlikeability makes her an appealing narrator. She’s snarky and bitchy; she takes her confusion and anger out on the people around her. Yet, her actions show that she is not the pain in the ass of a person she makes herself out to be. This dissonance between thought and action makes Dani a character I wanted to get to know better. Jena, on the other hand, is not all that fleshed out, and I didn’t exactly find myself rooting for her. Similarly, the rest of the family’s coping mechanisms intrigued me, but I failed to really connect with any of the other characters.

The premise of All These Lives reminded me of Hannah Moskowitz’ Break, but I found the latter more engaging. In a YA market saturated with cancer books, I continue to be pleased by the the diversity that sets each book apart, yet I sadly didn’t feel like All These Lives resonated with me enough to leave a lasting impression.

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