The Last Leaves Falling

The Last Leaves Falling

For Ages: 14 - 99
  • 5
A teen grapples with ALS and his decision to die in this devastatingly beautiful debut novel infused with the haunting grace of samurai death poetry and the noble importance of friendship.

Abe 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.
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781481430654 | 
  • June 2015 | 
  • Grades 9 and up | 
  • Lexile ® HL640L
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Last Leaves Falling

By Sarah Benwell


About the Book

Sora, age seventeen, will never grow old. He has a terminal illness, ALS—known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—which means he will gradually lose the use of his body, starting with his legs. Sora, who lives with his caring single mother in Japan, takes refuge in Internet chat rooms, where no one can see his problems. Under the user name SamuraiMan, he makes two good friends online. The three start meeting in person, filling Sora’s last days with a joy he never expected. But when his illness worsens, he must ask his friends an almost unthinkable favor. Like the Samurai whose death poems he cherishes, Sora wants to die on his own terms, with dignity and surrounded by love.

Discussion Questions

1. Why does the author, who’s British, set the book in Japan? Which aspects of the story are connected specifically to Japanese culture but which could take place anywhere?

2. Sora says of his relationship with his mother, “We’re a perfect team.” Why does he think that? How does their relationship change in the course of the story? 

3. Sora sometimes blames himself for being a burden to his mother. Analyze why he feels that way and what you think his mother feels, based on the text.

4. What does Sora mean when he says that peopl see more

About the Author

Sarah Benwell

Sarah Benwell lives in the picturesque English city of Bath, where she studied for an MA in Writing For Young People. Now she writes, runs creative writing workshops for teens and adults, such as the Young Writers Squad at Trowbridge Library where she’s also a writer in residence, and works retail at unsociable hours. Having seen a good chunk of the world, Sarah is a keen advocate for diversity in life and on bookshelves, and she loves nothing more than acquainting herself with both. As such, she co-runs an online space that highlights diverse experience and promotes inclusion in YA fiction.