REVIEW: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

by Allie Burke

I nearly put this book down a few times. There was nothing particularly wrong with it; I was learning about Japanese culture, relating to the pressure-filled childhood of anyone who had an Asian parent, and enjoying the story arc and characters, but it was boring. I hate to say that about a dying child – I am sure that is the point; the theme of the entire story is about ALS and how one boy struggles with the loss of his physical ability so it makes me feel terrible to say such a thing, but it was. I can deal with books about “nothing” if they are written well, but this one was mediocre.

I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it.


I did, however, finish it. I’ve had a really hard time focusing enough to read lately – a rut, if you will – so I forced myself to read it in case it was just me. But it wasn’t, I don’t think; I mean, it was good enough for me to hand to my boss as a recommendation (his passion is Japanese culture), but I just feel very meh about it. The ending was like, “That’s it? Really?” and I tossed it in my bookshelf and haven’t looked at it since. I think these types of books are responsible for my reading ruts. Because they lack style and anything noteworthy. Instead of falling face first into this world the author has created, the story and the characters are in this bubble you can’t reach. It’s in the distance, flying away.

I did love the Japanese culture, like I said, but the imagery was lost on me. I don’t know what it looks like there – wherever they are; are they in Japan? – and the storytelling was outdated. I don’t know if this was intentional – it was published pretty recently I think – but does anyone use chat rooms anymore? Maybe they do and I have been without my AIM password too long. Mostly, though, Sora annoyed me because he was constantly asking what happens after death, as if anyone knows. A seventeen-year-old kid should know – ALS or not – that nobody knows the answer to that question. His mental age did not match his physical age throughout the plot yet that was never referenced as a symptom of ALS, so I have no idea why it was presented in that way. So many things in this book do not match up. I feel lost looking back.

The Last Leaves Falling did provide awareness about ALS and I am sure it is a piece of literature that those or loved ones of those living with the illness will relate to. But it wasn’t for me. Not like The Fault in Our Stars at all like the cover claims.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Via Goodreads, it appears this book is pretty well loved for it’s premise. Could just be me! Check it out if you think it’s something you  may like.


Allie Burke was an author before she told her readers she had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The admission led her to write hundreds of publications on the subject, some of which have been published in Refinery 29, Vice Magazine, and Women’s Health. She now hosts a writing workshop called The 557 Block to give back to the mental health community by teaching, coaching, and still learning about the art of the written word. She has written ten novels.

Allie is the founder of The OCH Literary Society.


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