The Last Leaves Falling
Author: Sarah Benwell
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
As much as he loves his new friends, he can’t ignore what’s ahead. He’s beginning to lose function of his hands, and he knows that soon he will become even more of a burden to his mother as the illness takes his freedom piece by piece. So he has to make a difficult decision.
Debut novelist Sarah Benwell writes a devastatingly beautiful novel set in Japan about friendship, saying good-bye, and finding peace.
First Sentence: I stare at the cursor blinking expectantly at the top of the page.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
For some reason, when I first saw the cover and read the synopsis of The Last Leaves Falling, it reminded me of one of my childhood favorite books, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. I don’t know why – maybe it’s because the two novels are both set in Japan and both main characters are sick with little to no hope of recovery. (My heart just hurt typing that.) I was quite surprised to see that Sarah Benwell talked about Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes in the Acknowledgements of her book (I read the Acknowledgements before I start the actual story) since it was like she was totally reading my mind about the similarities. I couldn’t help but hope that The Last Leaves Falling would contain the same sad, almost whimsical feeling that Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes made me feel when I was a kid. Add the fact that The Last Leaves Falling focuses on a teenager boy with ALS, you know, the same ALS everyone did the ice bucket challenge for, and I just knew I had to read The Last Leaves Falling.
I wish, I wish, I wish. But they cannot grant me anything I really want.
I wish to have a life.
I wish to meet my grandchildren, and feed them ice cream until they’re sick.
I wish to be young and free and not in this wheelchair.
It is as if they’re saying , “You are going to die. The best you can do is wish for life.” (42)
The Last Leaves Falling contained conversations where teenagers chatted on an online forum. Although the conversations can get confusing because there were so many people chatting at the same time and I couldn’t keep track of who said what, they were enjoyable and fun to read. However, I do have a problem with the chats. EVERYONE that’s a teenager in the online forum chats types in perfect normal everyday English, with the exception of three slang words or typos made in the entire book. They use no abbreviations when typing, no “Where r u?” or “Tht can’t happen” “See u tonite.” I just don’t believe that.
Call me ignorant, but I’ve never thought much about people who have a disability and the things they have to go through. I didn’t think about what those Make A Wish non-profit corporations mean for them, or how hard it would be for them to earn a living. The Last Leaves Falling opened my eyes to many things and I’m sure it’ll open other readers’ eyes as well.
“Yes. We have. So don’t you ever say you’re sorry; I’m not.”
I’m not, either. Not for this. But every day I’m further from the boy I was, and I want him to be the one that she remembers. (305)
Reading The Last Leaves Falling, I could tell that Sarah Benwell did a lot of research about Japan. She knew a lot about Japan’s culture, how they valued pride and honor above all else, and inserted other aspects of Japan’s culture throughout the book. However, I found one particular storyline in the book very unrealistic and not believable, something I’m sure other people who are Asian would be agreeing with. I can’t say anything more as it’ll be a spoiler even though you can predict this outcome easily, but it’s still a spoiler nevertheless.
What really shocked me was the book’s ending. I mean, when I saw that there were only two pages left in the book and it looked like The Last Leaves Falling was still ending that way, I was panicking. To find out that the author actually went there was shocking, especially when I think about the aftermath and some legal consequences that wasn’t explored or just brushed over.
Overall, The Last Leaves Falling is an eye-opening read that you definitely need in your life. It will change your perspective on reality and leave you reeling hours after you’ve finished it.