Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls

The book is made up of a mixture of lists, questions, drawings and journal entries written by 11-year-old Sam who is dying of leukemia. Sam has already lived through 2 bouts of leukemia, and now that the disease has come back, he doesn't want to go through any more treatments. His friend Felix, who is also terminally ill, goes to school at home with Sam 3 days a week. They are taught by an unflappable tutor, Mrs. Willis, who tolerates Felix's avoidance of work (and keeps him interested by doing experiments where things get blown up), and encourages Sam in his quest to find the answers to his questions, both about life, and about death (Questions Nobody Answers No. 8 Will the world still be there when I am gone?). Mrs. Willis tries to get the boys to write journals, and Sam takes the assignment to heart, using the journal to record not only what's going on with him personally, but also information on topics that he is researching, like what rituals other cultures perform when someone dies. One of the lists is of things Sam wants to do before he dies, and of course, one list is "Ways to Live Forever." The book manages to be quite funny (the conversations between Sam and Felix are great) and even though it's sad, it never made me cry. I think part of why it wasn't so hard to read is that you know from the beginning what is going to happen. Felix insists that Sam include a place in his journal to be filled out after he has died:
"1. Sam's death was:
a. Peaceful.
b. Horrible and agonizingly painful.
c. Kind of in the middle.
d. We don't know --we were at the chip shop.
e. Other; please specify."
Review by Stacy Church

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