by Sarah Benwell
Release: 29th January 2015
Genre: UKYA, Contemporary,
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
"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."
The Last Leaves Falling was one of my most anticipated books of 2015 and what a beautiful, moving book it turned out to be! The book is set in Japan and follows Sora a teenage boy living with ALS and his journey in coming to terms with his fate and making the most of now.
Sora’s illness keeps him pretty isolated. He spends most of his days at home with his mother because he can’t stand the pitying looks he receives when he goes out in his wheelchair. So it’s no surprise that he turns to an internet chatroom for company. It’s a place where he can be Sora again, just a regular teen, not the boy who is dying.
I really loved how this book portrayed internet friendships. It showed how the internet can be a lifeline for people who in the real world would be judged on appearance and lifestyle above who they are inside. I loved watching Sora’s internet friends become his real life friends. It showed how friendships you make online can be just as real and important as any other friendship.
I also loved Sora’s relationship with his family, especially his mother. Even though the book is told solely from Sora’s perspective and his mother was only a secondary character I could feel her love and pain for Sora on every page.
Sora has many meaningful relationships in his life but he doesn’t have a love interest which was a refreshing surprise for a book in this genre. All too often books about characters that are terminally ill show them finding their one true love to share their remaining time with and although that’s great it’s not entirely realistic. Instead I enjoyed the message of having all different types of love around you and the value of the love and support from family and friends.
The Last Leaves Falling put me in the mind of someone with ALS. It was raw and honest and sad and hopeful. I finished the book feeling broken and healed all at once. With a reoccurring theme of taking control of your own destiny no matter what life throws at you The Last Leaves Falling is the YA equivalent of “Me Before You”.