The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

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The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Don't read this review unless you really have to know what it's about - go into this knowing as little as possible and you'll be rewarded with a stunning, deeply emotional read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Definitions
ISBN: 978-1909531222

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I have my usual problem attempting anything close to a plot summary of something I really love - this will probably make the maximum possible impact if you go into it, as I did, knowing barely anything about it. If you trust my recommendations enough to buy on one sentence, stop reading now and pre-order - this is a heart-breakingly gorgeous read which will almost definitely be one of the best books, YA or otherwise, published in 2015.

For those of you who want more of an idea of what it's about, a bare bones summary is that Japanese teenager Sora, confined to a wheelchair as he's suffering from ALS (perhaps more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and thinking about when he'll die, turns to the wisdom of the samurai and the new friends he makes over the internet to help him come to terms with his impending death.

This sounds like it should be incredibly depressing, and that's without mentioning the e-mails encouraging suicide which teenagers throughout Japan are starting to receive. But even though it's a book which deals with dark topics, it's never relentlessly bleak - there's a core of hope, particularly in Sora's relationships with his mother, his grandparents, and his new friends that shines through everything. As well, debut novelist Sarah Benwell has a beautiful writing style which will make her a must-read author for me. She vividly brings to life contemporary Japanese culture and introduced me to a world I knew relatively little about. The haikus Sora reads from the samurai are absolutely beautiful, as well.

Stunningly powerful, it's a book which will surely get everyone talking about it. It left me in tears - both when reading and when thinking about it to write this review. Hugely recommended; I would expect this to be a strong contender for prizes, and I really hope it gets the success it deserves.

The two hugely popular books about dying teenagers of the last decade have been Before I Die by Jenny Downham and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and there's good reason for that - both are fantastic reads. For me, though, Matthew Crow's life-affirming and surprisingly humorous In Bloom by Matthew Crow is better than either.

On a different topic, but just as powerful a debut, Lisa Williamson's The Art of Being Normal joins this in setting an incredibly high bar for contemporary releases in 2015. This dual narrative looking at themes of sexuality and gender identity is a must-read.

Buy The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell at Amazon.com.


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