The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell: Book review

The Last Leaves Falling
Book title/Author: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Publisher/Year: January 29th 2015 RHCP Digital
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: No
Pages: 352
Source/Format: e-arc | NetGalley
(Thanks NetGalley/RHCP Digital!)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion.

*This review may contain spoilers!*


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 review

I've spoken before on the blog about my interest in Asian culture, and so when I saw this on NetGalley and read about the story, I couldn't say no.

This book has an interesting twist as Sora is a young boy with an old man's disease, effectively. At the start of the book you can really feel Sora's internal struggle breaking through the surface and consuming him. He gets worse and worse very quickly and to be honest I didn't know if he was going to last till the end of the book. Also, the way that Sarah wrote about Sora and about the disease itself was very respectful and I appreciated that.  However, Sora luckily starts to branch out of his shell and begins to talk to people online. He makes a couple of friends and is given this book of poetry by his psychiatrist I believe, that really leaves an impact on him.

Things seem to be looking up for Sora, and you can tell by the change in tone of the book. The book changes from a book about a dying boy to a book about someone who is making a future for himself, even if it won't be a big one. Sora finally puts himself out there and makes friends, which is a huge step in the right direction for him.

All the way through the book there is a secondary storyline of a series of emails that Sora is sent about suicide and when I first read about them I was so shocked. I had no idea that that kind of thing even existed, let alone being sent out to teenagers nationwide. This however did bring in a lot of internet culture to the book, which I liked as it is a massive part of most of teenagers lives in first-world countries nowadays. It's not something I see a lot of in YA fiction, despite the importance it now holds.

The friendships in this book really stuck out to me as they were the second biggest thing in this novel, behind the impending doom of Sora's probable near death date. Kaito and Mai really lift Sora's spirits and show that online friendships can be completely safe.

I do have to admit to a little bit of crying on my part at this book, but I won't go into details so as not to spoil anyone.

This book really opened my eyes up to the realities of young people dealing with debilitating illnesses, and I am so glad I read it, and I hope you do too.



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