The Last Leaves Falling is a Young Adult novel by Sarah Benwell. It follows Sora, a teenage boy from Japan who has ALS.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis . It is a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical functions. Most people live three to five years with the disease but some can live ten or more. I found this information on ALS on google.
At the start of the novel, Sora had already lost the use of his legs and is unable to go to school because they are not able to make the accommodations for him and his wheelchair. All he wants is a little normalcy so he joins a teen online chat room. There he meets Mai and Kaito and they become friends without knowing about his illness. One day they decide to meet in person at Sora’s house where they both learn the truth. At first they have a hard time with it but eventually come around and they all become great friends. Sora helps Kaito realize that he wants to make websites and he helps Mai tell her mother that she wants to go to school for art and not to be a lawyer.
Toward the end of the novel, Sora begins to lose the function of his hands and that makes it harder for him to go online. He knows that soon there will be even more that he can’t do and he thinks he’ll be an even bigger burden on his mother. He is inspired by death poems of the Samurai, who are legendary Japanese warriors. He makes the decision to leave life on his own terms.This is not a spoiler because I’ve read it in many of the summaries and reviews including on the publisher’s website. The novel touches briefly on the Death With Dignity Act. I wish the author would have explored that more than she did. I would have liked to see more conversations about it and what goes into coming to that decision because she sort of just touches on the topic.
I really loved this novel. I loved the relationship between Sora and his mother. It was so realistic and believable. I loved the friendship between Sora, Mai and Kaito. Although they had just met, it felt like they had been friends for years. I also loved the way the story was told. You really get to see what life is like for not only someone with ALS but also how it impacts their family and friends as well.
This book was a tear jerker and I definitely had to take a break in some places to compose myself. It’s sad when anyone has an illness that is either terminal or that leaves you unable to do things physically, but when it’s someone who is so young I think that’s even harder. I really felt for Sora, he made me feel like I knew him and I could understand a little about what he was going though. It was almost like I was figuring things out along with him and when he made the decision to take matters into his own hands, I felt that sadness and not many books can do that to me. This was definitely a book that I carried around with me long after the final page.
I had a little issue with the ending. I would have liked a more conclusive ending, this one just kind of felt like it ended mid sentence if that makes any sense but overall I really enjoyed it and it’s definitely one that I see myself rereading in the future. I also gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.
That’s my review for The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell and I recommend it 100% to everyone!