A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book, while funny and often uplifting, may trouble young readers. The young protagonist struggles to answer many questions, including the one most important to him: Why do kids have to die?
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Here are some ways to live forever, according to Sam, an 11-year-old boy with leukemia: Make a Philosopher's stone. Become a vampire. He shares these and other ideas in his journal, dotted with scrapbook pictures and random lists (such as true facts about coffins). When Sam lists all the things he wants to do, he and his best friend, Felix, set out to accomplish them. That means riding in a blimp -- and kissing a girl.
Is it any good?
Nicholls finds true emotion in Sam's relationships with his family and friends, including his heartbreakingly real interaction with his father, who pretends Sam's illness doesn't exist. As much as readers will want to fight it, the novel stays true to Sam to the end.
While some well-known books (A Bridge to Terabithia being the most obvious) touch on childhood loss, most follow the perspective of those left behind. WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER offers a fictional 11-year-old's first-person take on dying. Sam is a sweet, believable boy who is never saintly -- "I want to do my things!" he insists, tired of visitors and being "nice to aunts and uncles all day." Despite the sad premise of terminal illness, Sam finds plenty of joy in life, whether goofing off with his friend or trying to call up Marie Antoinette's ghost on a Ouija board (and who should show up but MARIAN TWANET).