The new edition of Sally Nicholls' award-winning debut novel. Sam is dying of leukaemia. He has not got forever, so every minute counts. He wants to find out the facts about UFOs and horror movies and airships and ghosts and scientists, and how it feels to kiss a girl. And, most importantly, he wants to know the facts about dying. Can Sam get answers to the questions that nobody will answer and find a way to live a lifetime in the months that he has left. This funny, powerful and uplifting novel is a startling look at life in the face of .
What struck me as interesting about this book was the cover art at first. It was quite different to other books in this genre that I have seen recently. The almost green/yellow of the cloud and the black of the night sky, really draw me to it. Ways to Live Forever, is quite a gripping idea. When I read the blurb, I knew it was not something I could read aloud so I chose to read it by myself.
I sat down with this book and read it over a 24 hour period. Though I did put it down at a sensible hour in the evening to go to bed before picking it up immediately when I woke up the next day. There was a natural place in the flow of the book, where I felt I needed a break and could stop there.
This is a book about Sam, who is dying and his family. For the most part, you are with Sam through everything he experiences as he tries to research things and fulfill a wish list of things. But in the background of the story, you can see all of the things going on that he notices but doesn't understand. The way his father is acting. The way his mother is always on the phone. The unspoken tension, that is affecting the whole family. All the streams of people coming to visit, that Sam seems oblivious to.
A lot of really big concepts about life and death are explored at length by Sam in each chapter. I found though, that the way it is dealt with is gentle. While I personally find some of the topics a bit too scary to focus a lot of time on, I found some of the words really comforting as well. I had a lot of nodding moments as similar thoughts I have had, were presented back to me through the eyes of a dying child.
The book never felt truly morbid, despite the subject. There is death and a funeral and moments of trying to hold on to what is important and sometimes unimportant. But mostly it is a story of a family, trying to get as much time as possible and as many happy memories as they can too. They are grabbing the moments. As a parent I occasionally wanted to shake the father, and really wanted to hug the mum as well. After I finished the book this morning, I grabbed my 8 year old and gave her a massive hug. "What was that for, mum?" she asked. "I just needed to hug you, sweetheart. My book was sad, and I needed a big cuddle".
I think a child may take this story in, easier in some ways. It would depend on the kid though. If you know your child is a sensitive soul, then it may not be for them. But if they are quite matter of fact, it could be a good read. Certainly if they read and enjoyed The Honest Truth or The Fault in Our Stars, then this would probably be a good pick for them. I've only dropped it down a little on the re-readability, as I'm not sure I could read it again. As good as it was (it really was), it would be hard to revisit any time soon.
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