The title, Ways to Live Forever (Scholastic, Rs 195), might suggest that this is yet another self-help book. But turn to the first page and it starts: “My name is Sam. I am eleven years old. I collect stories and fantastic facts. I have leukaemia. By the time you will read this, I will probably be dead.”
The novel is actually a collection of diary entries. By giving Sam the narrative voice, author Sally Nicholls takes the reader into a territory that is as unpredictable as it is delicate. Then we have Sam’s friend, Felix, who too is “not well” and unlike him uses a wheelchair and wears hats as his hair has fallen due to the side-effects of the medication. They are taught by Mrs Willis in home school — unlike Ella, Sam’s sister, who has to go to school to study.
As the story proceeds, Sam and Felix are seen to have opposite temperaments. While the former is quiet and calm, Felix is enthusiastic and energetic.
Questions abound, like: ‘Why does God make kids get ill?’ ‘Why do people have to die anyway?’ and ‘Will the world still be there when I am gone?’A rather remarkable debut.