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)