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Ways to Live Forever

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Ways to Live Forever Book Poster Image
Touching but not maudlin story about a dying child.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Felix and Sam watch an R-rated movie (The Exorcist) when they know they are not supposed to. They try to use a Ouija board. Sam's grandmother believes his grandfather talked to her after he died and sometimes hears his footsteps down the hallway. Felix torments the hospital staff by sneaking out of his room or pretending to be covered in blood.


A brief kiss.


"Bloody God!"


There are mentions of some specific brand names (Google) and several pop culture references (Pirates of the Caribbean).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Felix tries to con people visiting the hospital into buying him cigarettes; a teenage girl finally does it. Sam notes that Felix doesn't smoke very often; "he just likes the way it looks." Sam decides to be a teenager by smoking a cigarette, drinking cherry brandy, and kissing a girl (Felix's cousin) on the mouth, all in one afternoon. When Sam jokingly says he wants a beer (his mom keeps trying to get him to eat), his mom asks the neighbors for one to give him (the book doesn't say whether he actually drinks it, though).

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?

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 year old Written byTicMotion September 30, 2009


Grown-ups and older kids should definitely read this book at least once. I loved it -- laughed, cried, couldn't put it down, and won't ever forget it...
Kid, 9 years old June 11, 2009

amazing book!

this book is amazing, touching, and inspirational. i cried! haha. i think it is a must read for kids. just amazing. STANDING OVATION!
Kid, 11 years old October 12, 2010

11 and up for sure!

It was okay. One message it carries out: How beautiful life is, so don't waste it. Live as if you'll die tomorrow! I don't know if he died at the... Continue reading

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).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about any of Sam's tough questions: Why does God make kids get ill? Where do you go after you die? Family members can discuss what things they would like to do during their life and make a list.

Book details

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