Review: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell


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.


I’ve had a copy of this book sat on my TBR bookshelf for ages now; nearly a year. It was part of the prize pile I received at the UKYABA event and I’ve been slowly working my way towards it (which is quite hard when more and more books arrive each week, thwarting your efforts to reach it).

Sora is bound to a path in life that sees his body slowly stop working much sooner than it should. Sora has ALS meaning he will eventually lose all control of his limbs and be unable to talk or eat without assistance. He feels trapped to a death sentence that divides him from all the other teens around him. Everyone is healthy and looking towards the future and his is rather limited. Through an internet chat room; Sora finds friendship and the companionship he’s been missing in his life. By reaching out, he learns to accept his present and make decisions about his future.

The Last Leaves Falling is one of those books that you can’t really describe as good or bad because it isn’t about that: it’s a book that’s important and makes you think. It doesn’t matter if you like one plot point or hated it because it’s not trying to do that as such. It’s trying to get you to step outside yourself and think about bigger things. I have no way of relating to a teen Japanese lad with ALS but I can imagine how isolating and huge life must seem when faced with somethings so daunting. That’s what I really loved about this book: it’s ability to make me connect and understand. Sarah has a real talent at making Sora’s character seem so relatable and you can understand the decisions he makes along the way. He’s tackling a lot of *big life questions* that most of us don’t have to even consider until we’re much older.

As much as this book is about Sora, it’s also about the people in his life that help him keep going and remind him that he can still enjoy life. All the characters have lives of their own and you see their problems and woes play out alongside Sora’s, making the story all the more realistic. The world doesn’t stop turning just because your life seems to be imploding; no matter how bad it may seem.

The Last Leaves Falling is an excellent book that asks some big questions about life and asks the reader to consider life from a wider view point.

Published by Definitions, an imprint of RHCB, and is available online and in bookshops now

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