Wednesday, 28 January 2015

REVIEW || The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

Book Title: The Last Leaves Falling
Author: Sarah Benwell
PublisherDefinitions (Young Adult), January 29th, 2015
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Format: e-ARC, 320 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.

The Last Leaves Falling was among one of my most anticipated reads of 2015, and it did not disappoint – it was tender and truthful; a story that I think everyone needs to sample and consume. 

I know we’ve had a lot of books about illnesses, some have become rather mainstream (cough, The Fault In Our Stars) but I think what makes Benwell’s book so much more unique is how its set in Japan, not only the diversity that’s included throughout the book – and not in a forced way - but just the simple differences we see in Sora’s lifestyle.

Something that surprised me, and I’m slightly ashamed that it did, was how normal Sora was portrayed, even with the struggle and the worsening symptoms of ALS, he was just a regular teenager, on the internet, like us. Benwell portrayed that element so well, it really felt like familiar young voices talking – it’s an element that can so often be written wrongly (and in my experience, has been) that when it is written right, as in The Last Leaves Falling, you obviously can’t help but praise it.

I think the reason this was so surprising is that in a lot of novels about illness, that I’ve read, there’s an overwhelming amount of depression, and after a while, even though I hate to say it, it does get kind of tiring. Whilst a large part of the book is obviously about Sora’s story and his illness, ALS, I think something that was more so empowering was the role that friendship played in the book, it was like the lifeboat the helped the rest of the novel rock on the waves.

The Last Leaves Falling is just a truly beautiful and touching book, with fantastically diverse characters and elements. As ordinary as Benwell’s novel is, it’s also extraordinary in some respects and there’s a perfect balance here. With any novel of this nature, some tears are inevitable, what I couldn’t have foreseen was how Sarah made me smile through my tears. 

In short, this book has a lot of heart, and shouldn’t be dismissed quickly – I urge you to read it! 

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds


  1. This wouldn't be the usual type of book I'd pick up but I do think I want to read this one. I really should be reading more books that raise awareness of illnesses and what it's like to go through them. It's refreshing that this one didn't focus entirely on the illness though - I love a book where friendship plays a really important role. This one does sound like a really touching tale, hopefully it'll be in my library one day.

    Great review. :)

  2. When I see the word "Japan", it catches my attention. It seems to be a nice story, but stories about illneses makes me feel sad and unable to keep reading.

  3. Not my normal type of book, but may give it a try as have heard by others that it is quite good


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