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Radiant Shadows

All These Lives

All These Lives - Sarah Wylie All These Lives took me by complete surprise. I would never have imagined that I would like such a snarky and sarcastic protagonist, or that I would empathize with her guilt over being very much alive when her sister is walking a fine line between life and death. I thought All These Lives was going to be about the struggles of living with someone who has cancer. What I got was so much more!Dani is not an easy character to like as she's actually a bit of a bully. Her snark is always intended to hurt and her sarcasm was constantly used to keep people at arm's length so they couldn't see just how deeply she was hurting. It's only because her actions were so obviously the result of her survivor's guilt - guilt she carries like a weight for being healthy when her sister is so sick and for not being a match when they are fraternal twins - that I was able to look deeper and see a girl who is pushing everyone away to avoid having to face that pain.Her expression falls slightly as she senses that my walls are up and she's not nearly strong enough to climb over. Not even today when she is leukaemia's version of Superwoman.I was able to see a girl who was struggling to keep her head above water, as she tried not to drown in the paralyzing fear of being completely helpless. Feeling lost and broken, her pain is raw and real and vivid and not surprisingly, she doesn't know how to handle it.I grew to fall in love with her, and her sense of humour and quick wit generally had me laughing out loud. She wore her cynicism like a suit of armour but it was easily destroyed whenever Jena asked something of her. Her love for her family, even when she was mentally rolling her eyes over how they chose to cope with Jena's illness, was so endearing. At first, I couldn't understand why she spent so much time separating herself from Jena, and I was angry with her for abandoning Jena when she needed Dani the most. But I quickly grew to understand Dani's fears of upsetting Jena by saying the wrong thing or by pushing her too hard, worsening her condition.How is it possible that I miss her when she's right here?Wylie truly knows how to pull on the heartstrings of anyone who has a sibling, and I found myself constantly in tears whenever I put myself in Dani's position.At first, the references to Dani's nine lives was...strange. Having survived what should have been a fatal accident as an infant, and later a chest infection that should have been too much for her to overcome, Dani believes that, like a cat, she has nine lives. She was once told a story about how when a cat uses one of its lives, it is given to a different cat who might have only had one or two lives. She starts thinking that if she can work her way through her lives, then maybe, just maybe, one of them will make it's way to Jena and make her not just better, but well. I wasn't sure if an element of the paranormal was going to be introduced, or if this was just one of Dani's coping mechanisms.It did open the door for an amazing path of self-discovery where Dani learns that what matters is that we live while we can.Most people think the biggest sacrifice, the greatest 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.Her battle with her inner demons and the realization that Jena might need her to live as much as she needs Jena to live, was heart-warming and beautiful.The secondary characters were all well done, and I LOVED how prominent both of Dani's parents were - not only in presence but with their interactions with each other and with Dani. Dani's friendship with Jack was adorable - her refusal to look at him as anything other then a friend because he might iron his jeans, or even worse, his underwear, again had me laughing out loud. I wanted to hurt her when she purposely hurt his feelings, or tried to embarrass him, but I loved that he eventually stood up for himself and called her out on certain things when on one else would.All These Lives was a wonderful read. Once you get over Dani's abrasiveness, you can't help but sympathize with her and her family. Wylie has written a compelling look into a side of cancer that we don't often see and readers won't be able to help being touched by it's sincerity.Find this review, and more, on my blog Radiant Shadows