TITLE: Ways To Live Forever
AUTHOR: Sally Nicholls
PUBLISHER: Marion Lloyd Books (Scholastic)
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2008
NUMBER OF PAGES: 200
PERSONAL SOURCE: Bought from a school fete
Sam is eleven. He loves facts. He wants to know about airships and space and what it’s like to smoke a cigarette and go for a drink in the pub. He wants to know because he has leukaemia, and he’s dying. Sam especially needs the answers to the questions no one wants to hear.
I picked this up on a whim because I thought I’d heard of it before but then I put it on my shelf for a rainy day. Today wasn’t a rainy day, but I simply decided to read it and I only put it down to toast some crumpets. I read the entire thing in about two hours, and was fighting back tears from about the middle of it (okay, so I was feeling pretty tearful anyway but y’know).
This debut (!!) novel is made great by the protagonist: Sam, adorable, witty, curious Sam who wants to know answers and makes lists and is portrayed very realistically by not wanting to hang out with his aunts and uncles in the last few weeks he has to live.
The other supporting characters handle Sam’s sickness in various ways, and I think that this is very good, as it’s very realistic and provokes a variety of reactions from the audience. For example, his best friend Felix is very matter-of-fact about it, and as he is also dying this provokes empathy, whereas Sam’s dad walks away when the topic of conversation comes up.
The story ends how you expect it to: the protagonist dies (okay and this isn’t a spoiler because the first bit is, “By the time you read this, I’ll probably be dead.”). The ending is actually done very well and ties in with other bits of the story.
Yes, this story did make me cry and it did make me think. It’s amazing how Nicholls managed to make a book about an 11 year old dying humorous and optimistic too. I’d definitely recommend it. I’m not even entirely sure who it’s intended for, but I think any age could read it.