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Sam is 11 and he has leukaemia and has only a few months to live. Unlike his parents, he has accepted that his death is inevitable.
His father buries himself in his work and his mother tends to be overprotective.
He decides to write a book about himself and his death. He draws up a list of "questions nobody answers" such as "Why God makes children fall ill" and others that are important to him.
Ways to Live Forever is a chronicle of his last few months, daily experiences, facts that he collects throughout his illness, his wishes and what he would like to happen after he is dead.
With the threat of death looming closer, Sam realises just how precious every minute of his life is and makes it a point to fulfil every entry on his bucket list.
These include things that healthy people take for granted, such as kissing a girl, drinking alcohol and smoking a cigarette. He gets a little help from his crazy best friend Felix, also a cancer patient.
He comes close to planning his own funeral, leaving behind a list of questions about how he eventually dies and do's and don'ts for his burial.
It is at times unsettling to read about what a child, not yet in his teens, thinks about serious subjects such as the existence of God and death, but Ways to Live Forever is funny and thought-provoking.
Although it is written for children, Nicholl's has approached her first novel in a manner that is neither outrageous nor patronising.
I would be surprised if it didn't make it to Oprah's book club. It's a tear-jerker, so keep a box of tissues handy when reading this one.