Ways to Live Forever

ways to live forever

ExtractSam loves facts. He wants to know about UFOs and horror movies and airships and ghosts and scientists, and how it feels to kiss a girl.

And because he has leukaemia he wants to know the facts about dying. Sam needs answers to the questions nobody will answer.

My name is Sam. I am eleven years old. I collect stories and fantastic facts. By the time you read this, I will probably be dead.

True Facts About Ways to Live Forever


I really did run up down escalators when I was writing this book. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages and I thought, if Sam can do it, so can I. I did it in the same place Sam does – at the Cornmill Centre in Darlington.



The chapter Visits is based on something my mother did after I was diagnosed with diabetes as a child. It was supposed to be a funny scene – but it didn’t turn out that way when I wrote it.



I deleted over 20,000 words while writing this book (the finished novel is around 32,000 words long). Some of the scenes I deleted include a list of famous last words, a description of how a dead body decomposes and a scene where Sam and Felix try and break their world record by dropping water bombs on Sam’s dad.


There are a few real names and places in this book. Auntie Nicola, Auntie Sarah and Auntie Carolyn are named after friends of mine, as is Raoul, the airship pilot. Stanley Rhode (the airship captain) gets his name from Stanley Road, the street I lived on at university. My friends and I always meant to put Stanley Rhode into one of our essays but never did, so I put him in the book instead. High Strawberry – on Sam’s list of favourite things – is also a real place. We used to stay there when I was a child.


The first words I wrote when I began this book were:

pen Paper

List No. 1 – Five Important Facts About Me

1. My name is David Oliver Robinson.

2. I am eleven years, two months and seven days old.

3. I have one sister. Her name is Katherine Anne Robinson and she is nine years old.

4. I have acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

5. By the time you read this, I will already be dead.

Reviews of Ways to Live Forever

“impressed by Sally Nicholls’ sensitive handling of terminal illness in Ways to Live Forever”

Mal Peet, The Guardian

“Sympathetic, touching, and surprisingly funny…”


“Sally Nicholls has precisely captured the contents of an 11-year-old boy’s head in all its humorous, list-making splendour.” 

Junior Education Plus


  1. Natalia
    June 24, 2014 @ 1:50 am

    Hi Sally,

    This was the most captivating book I have read all year. This the only book I have ever read that has made me cry with uncontrollable tears. I could not put the book down and I loved reading it. I got really a motional and hated when Sam died. What really should have happened was that Sam should have lived and so should have Felix’s . Yes amazing but sad. I suppose that this is what happens to some children in real life.


  2. saloni gupta
    May 7, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

    hi this is saloni and i am a student.i read this book in one of my library period and it was so good that i am always eager to read this book whenever there is library period.


  3. The Millenium Bookworm
    April 28, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

    Wow. Where to start? Amazing book, finished it in less than an hour. Is it a true story? 🙂 Thank you for providing us with such good literature!!!


  4. 1D LOVER
    March 30, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

    I LOVED your book. It was sooooo sad! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!! 🙂


  5. Maestro Pyrous
    March 26, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

    I, myself have not read this book, but looking at it, I would probably get around to buying it in a few days. It seems like a fun book to read, and I don’t even like reading!


  6. Pj
    January 2, 2014 @ 8:15 am

    Most of us have probably known someone who died young and have had to cope with a wide range of emotions and feelings that followed. This book opens a doorway especially for children to think about death and discuss the various different emotions which follow. My only disappointment with the book from a parent’s perspective, is the mentioning of the film ‘Exorcist’ and the use of an ouija board, which makes me hesitant to allow my 11 year old child to read it.(I will read it aloud and miss those bits out!)
    Otherwise a great book, well done for tackling this difficult issue and for giving children an opportunity to explore their own thoughts and feelings about death.


  7. Leah Monteith
    December 17, 2013 @ 7:33 am

    I am reading this book and it sounds amazing can not wait till I get to the end <3 <3


  8. makayla hewitt
    November 27, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

    i love this book it got me thinking abpout peopl who die that i know and when felix died i was about to cry so i wish i could right like you sally


  9. Tasya
    October 6, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    I really liked your book, it really inspired me.
    This is really great!
    This is very creative 🙂 , I also like the fact, I also want to investigate the UVO and ghosts 🙂


  10. Bridget
    September 28, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

    This book is amazing. Sam’s character has, like, tons of adjectives! I also really, really love Felix’s character too. Also, how you made him passed, wonderful. It was beautiful, it nearly made me cry. I would have, if I weren’t reading it in the middle of class.

    When I reached the few last pages of the book, where Sam’s family had to fill out the survey, I was really surprised. The choices were amusing, I assume it was thanks to Felix, and it was a really beautiful way to end it.

    Absolutely wonderful.


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