Benwell, Sarah. The last leaves falling. Simon & Schuster, 2015. 359 pgs. Includes glossary. $17.99. ISBN:978-1-4814-3065-4. Gr. 8+. P8 Q9
At the age of 17, Japanese teen Abe Sora has been diagnosed with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Sora loses the ability to walk and is now home schooled. Using the internet, Sora is able to blog and communicate with people his age while hiding the fact that he is sick. It becomes a means of escape from the home that he is mostly bound to. When two of the bloggers ask to meet with him he does so reluctantly. Kaito and Mai both are surprised to see Abe in a wheel chair and at first are hurt that he has not confided in them. As friendship prevails, it comes a with a wish to die from Abe, one that Kaito and Mai are called on to help with. In Oregon, we have an assisted suicide law that allows terminally ill people the choice to die if that is their wish. This story brought home to me how important it is for terminally ill people to have this choice. Abe being under age and choosing to die will not resonate with all who read this book.
[Editor’s note: ALS is a degenerative neurological disease that involves the death of voluntary nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy. People with ALS are typically between 40 and 70 years of age and the disease progression is often rapid, with loss of the ability to walk, swallow, or breathe, leading to death.]
September 2015 review by Carol Bernardi