The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

Leaf

In this incredibly beautiful book, we encounter seventeen-year-old Sora dealing with the fatal diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Set in modern day Japan, the teen faces the deterioration of his body, a growing sense of isolation, and all the big philosophical questions we would expect. The grownups around him offer what help they can but they serve mostly to point out how society as a whole can’t face death. Sora finds some solace in the death poetry of Samurai warriors, but they are distant echoes from the past. Looking for friendship, and confined at home by the disease, he reaches out through the internet to find companionship. Even though the disease is progressing, Sora eventually risks meeting two of the friends he’s made online. Skittish at first, the friends have as much trouble dealing with death as the adults do, but they come together anyway.

This is a book about friendship, courage, and death. It doesn’t shy away from the unfairness of life. Because of that and some push back in reviews I’ve read, I guess this is one of those books best kept to a more mature teen audience. Some people are very concerned that a book about teen suicide was ever written. Really? And then, there’s the connection to disability and teen suicide! Nevertheless, it’s a great book for teens because all of this is difficult and there’s lots of room for discussion. On top of that there are the cultural differences between Japan and the US. What is expected of a teen in Japan is not necessarily what we would expect from a teen in the US. All of these themes make this a great jumping off point for deep thought and discussion. Recommended!

 

What Will I Be Reading Over the Next Few Months?

Every once in a while, I scroll through the new offerings in my library’s YA e-books list. Often the “hottest” books are all checked out and I’m not great at waiting for the holds queue. Although if I really, really want a certain book, I will try it before resorting to buying it. Sometimes I find something available that I want to read right away. Sometimes nothing appeals and I run over to Amazon because they have a much better search engine that can find a book without me pulling my hair out! (Who designs these library search functions? I’m torn between whether I think they should be ashamed of themselves or just locked up in a mental ward.) Anyway, a recent search had me positively giddy with delight! I found a ton of books I’m interested in. I’ve listed them below and will be starting with Haunting the Deep by Ariana Mather. From there, I don’t know which title I’ll be able to get or when, but this is going to be my basic reading list. Maybe you’ll find a book below you might want to try, or comment on one you have already read. Let me know!!

Haunting the Deep– Ariana Mather

Haunting

“The Titanic meets the delicious horror of Ransom Riggs and the sass of Mean Girls in this follow-up to the #1 New York Times bestseller How to Hang a Witch, in which a contemporary teen finds herself a passenger on the famous “ship of dreams”—a story made all the more fascinating because the author’s own relatives survived the doomed voyage.”

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen– Katherine Howe

Appearance

“It’s July in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose-petal lips and her entrancing glow. There’s just something about her that he can’t put his finger on, something faraway and otherworldly that compels him to fall even deeper. Annie’s from the city, and yet she seems just as out of place as Wes feels. Lost in the chaos of the busy city streets, she’s been searching for something—a missing ring. And now Annie is running out of time and needs Wes’s help. As they search together, Annie and Wes uncover secrets lurking around every corner, secrets that will reveal the truth of Annie’s dark past.”

The Last Leaves Falling– Sarah Benwell

Last

“A teen grapples with ALS and his decision to die in this “deeply moving” (Booklist, starred review) debut novel infused with the haunting grace of Japanese poetry and the noble importance of friendship.

Sora is going to die, and he’s only seventeen years old. Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), he’s already lost the use of his legs, which means he can no longer attend school. Seeking a sense of normality, Sora visits teen chat rooms online and finally finds what he’s been longing for: friendship without pity.

As much as he loves his new friends, he can’t ignore what’s ahead. He’s beginning to lose the function of his hands, and soon he’ll become even more of a burden to his mother. Inspired by the death poems of the legendary Japanese warriors known as samurai, Sora makes the decision to leave life on his own terms. And he needs his friends to help him.”

It Wasn’t Always Like This– Joy Preble

It Wasn't

“In 1916, Emma O’Neill is frozen in time. After sampling an experimental polio vaccine brewed on a remote island off St. Augustine, Florida, she and her family stop aging—as do the Ryans, her family’s business partners. In a way, this suits Emma fine because she’s in love with Charlie Ryan. Being seventeen forever with him is a dream. But soon a group of religious fanatics, the Church of Light, takes note. Drinking the elixir has made the O’Neills and Ryans impervious to aging, but not to murder—Emma and Charlie are the only ones who escape with their lives.

On the run, Emma is tragically separated from Charlie. For the next hundred years, she plays a cat-and-mouse game with the founding members of the Church of Light and their descendants. Over the years, a series of murders—whose victims all bear more than a passing resemblance to her—indicate that her enemies are closing in. Yet as the danger grows, so does Emma’s hope for finding the boy she’s certain is still out there . . .”

A Psalm for Lost Girls– Katie Bayer

Psalm

“Tess da Costa is a saint—a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that’s what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess’s sainthood official. Tess’s mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted—overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.

The fervor for Tess’s sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who’s been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess’s shrines. It’s the final straw for Callie. With the help of Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, Callie’s determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie’s investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for—a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana’s kidnapping. Told in alternating perspectives, A Psalm for Lost Girls is at once funny, creepy and soulful—an impressive debut from a rising literary star.”

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn– Marianna Baer

Inconceivable

“Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?”