My most recent book review submitted to SLJ today!
All these lives
As a tiny infant she and her mother survived a horrible car crash. Hearing this story and others just like it have convinced Dani she has nine lives. And right now those nine lives may come in handy because her twin sister Jenna has been diagnosed with leukemia. Jenna needs a bone marrow transplant to survive, but Dani isn’t a match and can’t help. All she can do is sit back and watch her sister get weaker every day. Her feelings of helplessness come out at school, from a belligerent attitude to mouthing off to everyone, causing her to become an outcast among her friends. From Mom’s constant hovering to Dad’s secretive smoking, the entire family copes as best they can.
But after hearing a story about a cat’s nine lives floating out in the atmosphere to help other cats, Dani gets an idea how she can help. She’ll give her nine lives to Jenna. And so she embarks on a series of risky endeavors, each one designed to take one of her lives. And each time Dani watches carefully to see if Jenna improves at all. From almost drowning to crashing a motorcycle to swallowing pills, Dani tries to count down her lives. But what she doesn’t see is how her destructive behavior is causing her parents even more heartache.
At one point in the dead of winter, the family goes on a family camping trip and for a few brief days, things seem normal again. The parents even leave the girls alone for an evening, but the night ends disastrously. Jenna becomes seriously ill and though Dani handles everything from calling paramedics to getting Jenna to the hospital, she feels responsible. And she decides it’s time to give all remaining lives to Jenna by doing something seriously dangerous.
All ends well, and Dani learns the best way to help her sister is not to give up her own life through destructive behaviors but to be there for Jenna. Narrated in Dani’s somewhat sarcastic voice, the story shows how living with a terminally ill person affects every family member. Details about Jenna’s illness are revealed through the narrative as needed. Interesting without being syrupy, the story will show kids, who may be going through similar tough family situations, destructive behaviors are not always the best solution.