Thursday, 17 December 2015

Book Review: Ways to live forever by Sally Nicholls

My name is Sam. I am eleven years old. I collect stories and fantastic facts. By the time you read this, I will probably be dead. Sam loves facts. He wants to know about UFOs and horror movies and airships and ghosts and scientists, and how it feels to kiss a girl. And because he has leukaemia he wants to know the facts about dying. Sam needs answers to the questions nobody will answer. "Ways To Live Forever" is the first novel from an extraordinarily talented young writer. Funny and honest, it is one of the most powerful and uplifting books you will ever read.

My Review:
This book is certainly aimed more at children than adults but adults can still enjoy the story. Sam has recurring leukaemia which affects his family and friends in different ways. His sister Ella is angry that she has to get sent away to school while Sam receives minimal home schooling classes, his father is in complete denial about his son dying, his mother is determined to hold the family together and best friend Felix, a fellow cancer sufferer decides to help Sam fulfill a very fanciful wishlist. Sam is also determined to find out why adults never answer the questions that he asks.

I wasn't sure about this book in the opening chapters as Ella was behaving like a spoiled brat and Felix was mildly annoying but both grew on me as the book progressed. Ella seems to be hiding her fears for her big brother behind her anger and we see as the book progresses how much he means to her, which is touching. Felix is a livewire who is always up to something and decided to help Sam study why questions are not answered while injecting some fun into his days.

The book really covers the day to day issues of a dying child from his POV. He is full of questions and thoughts which he notes down in journals in a haphazard manner. While this kind of writing doesn't appeal to me, it would be logical that Sam would just write things down as he thought about it, skip things, come back to things etc as kids can be like that anyway, so it works for this book. We really see what Sam is thinking the whole time and how hard it is for an 11 year old to face his own mortality.

I liked the way the book also covered how hard it is for the family to watch their son dying. His mother is the proactive one who seeks out medical help and wants to do everything she can to keep her son alive. His father is in utter denial, convinced that Sam is actually getting better, talking about sending him back to school, smiling every time Sam indicates he feels ok today. It causes friction between his parents every time his dad retreats from the truth which he refuses to confront. It was well written and you really could feel the pain of this normal family.

It was well written with good normal characters, a few things to smile at and a few things to shed tears over. I'll certainly look out for other books by the author as I felt she handled the difficult subject matter nicely and presented the story in a way that gets the reader emotionally involved. Well worth a read.
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