Sunday, 5 April 2015

Review - The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

20743633Genre: teen/young adult, contemporary
Pages: 320
Rating: 4/5
Trigger warning: suicide

And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .

Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.

My thoughts
In the bookstore I was instantly drawn to this beautiful cover. I love simple graphic designs like this. I hardly knew anything about this book before I started it, just that is was about a boy who was dying, but I was pleasantly surprised. I often have difficulty connecting with main characters of contemporary books, but this time that was not the case at all. Sora is an introvert and loves reading and along with his polite manners that resonated with me. He had a very good relationship with his mom, which is something hardly any YA books have. Sora also has regular contact with his grandparents and I don't think I've ever read a YA book that has a main character that has that.
I really appreciated that this book was about friends rather than romance. Maybe in the beginning the friendship was a bit rushed, because I would personally probably not meet someone in real life with whom I've only spoken three times on the internet, but later on it really felt like Sora, Mai and Kaito had a very strong connection and it was a great friendship to read about. Both Mai and Kato have a small plotline that is mentioned that does not involve Sora, which made them seem more like real people.
This book does include chat messages and that's personally not something I'm a big fan of (along with emails, etc.) On the other hand, the samurai death poetry that was included was really beautiful and added an extra layer to the story. The fact that suicide is mentioned in the story might make it controversial for some, but I often find those are the best books. Those are the ones that really make you think and this book gave some interesting insights for the debate on end of life choices.

The last leaf falls
But look close and you see
The hidden buds of spring

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