Ways to Live Forever

I’m a big fan of teen or children’s books which are of interest to adults. These are books which are totally appropriate for children, even written for children, but are books that an adult would find interesting, captivating and unique. One book I recently read which falls into this category is, Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls. This novel is narrated to us by the intelligent and good natured eleven-year old Sam. Dying of leukemia, Sam is takes a writing project assigned to him by his teacher, Mrs. Willis, a step further and decides to write a book. Along with telling us about his life, the book is filled with lists and questions, especially questions that nobody will answer. The questions nobody wants to answer are tough; they range from what happens to people when they die to why people die at all. Sam immediately charms the reader, he is smart, funny, kind and curious, and even though this book discusses a sad and serious topic this is a book you will want to read.

During the story we meet Sam’s parents, his sister Ella, his best-friend Felix, who is also sick. The spirited Felix helps Sam to accomplish some of the things on his “Things I Want to Do” list. From attempting to watch off-limits horror movies to attempting to create the world’s smallest night club the two boys make a serious dent in Sam’s list. They also compile another list of “Ways to Live Forever”, some things on this list are silly and some philosophical. One thing not included in this list is to write a book that keeps your memory alive, which is what Sam ends up doing. This book juxtaposes fun moments and poignant moments. The book can be hard to read in places because of the subject matter but it is also enjoyable to read in other places. Two of the most touching moments to me were when Sam’s mom keeps the children home from school for one last fun day of sledding and when Sam’s father arranges for the family to ride in an airship, one of Sam’s items on his list of things he wants to do.

Books on the topic of grief and dying are tough. Children’s books dealing with this subject are especially tough. The author of this book does a great job of being sweet, poignant, sad and even funny at times. Author Sally Nicholls handles the subject well and gave us a very enjoyable and thought provoking book. This book is sad and beautiful and so well written you think it really is Sam’s book rather than a book of fiction.

Ways to Live Forever was turned into a film and directed by Gustavo Ron. Originally released in Spain in 2010, the film has been nominated for and won numerous awards. Up until now the film wasn’t released in the United States. Well the wait is over!  The film is being released in the United States on July 19th, 2013. I can’t wait to see how this touching book got turned into an award winning film. Check your local listings for the film and check your local library for the book.

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