Thursday 15 September 2011

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Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die by Jenny DownhamBefore I Die by Jenny Downham - Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is sex. Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out. "Before I Die" is a brilliantly-crafted novel, heartbreaking yet astonishingly life-affirming. It will take you to the very edge. From Amazon UK

I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing this book is. It's absolutely wonderful, simply heartbreaking, and just brilliant. Such a beautiful story!

Tessa is a character I am unbelievably in awe for. How someone so young is able to cope so well with being told they only have so long left to live is just beyond me. She's strong, she's brave, and she's just incredible. And she has a plan. A plan to live before she dies. She makes a mist of things she wants to do before she no longer can, and it makes me want to list.

The first few things on her list I weren't the biggest fan of. Either because they're things I disagree with or Tessa doesn't actually want to do, but feels like she should just so she can say she has. Where was the sky diving? Where was the swimming with dolphins? Drugs, casual sex and breaking the law... not really the first things I would have thought of. But she does them, and her story as she goes along is just so sad.

A lot of the things she wants to she does with her best friend Zoey. I really didn't like her. She seemed unsupportive, a bad influence, and quite selfish. She got a little better towards the end, but she was always criticising Tessa and what/how she did things. I really wanted Tessa to just give her the elbow and try doing things on her own. I think she may have enjoyed things a little more if she did.

I cannot tell you how awful it was to read about Tessa's family trying to deal with Tessa's imminent death. Her Dad was in denial, yet wanted Tessa to be careful. Her younger brother was a typical younger brother, but also really scared and upset. Her Mum didn't know what to do with herself. No-one really coped too well. It was difficult to read the arguments between Tessa and her Dad, because you cn understand Tessa wanting to get out there and live, but you can also understand her Dad not wanting her to do anything that will bring her death date closer. And there really wasn't anything her Dad could do, and he knew it. So, so sad.

Adam, the love interest of the story, is just amazing. He is just so sweet, and he does all these little things to try and help Tessa tick items off her list. He's such a sweetheart, and he tries so hard. But I kind of almost didn't want Tessa to end up with someone. It just didn't seem fair; you know how this story is going to end, and sure, Tessa is allowed some happiness, but it just felt a little selfish of her, he would be left behind. I was almost crying when they got it together. And this quote really got me:

'I know I look like a pile of bones covered in cling film. I see the shock of it in Adam's eyes.
"Not quite how you remembered me, eh?"
He leans down and kisses me on the cheek. "You're gorgeous."
I cried like a baby over the last few chapters. So much I could hardly see what I was reading. It was just excruciating, and the way Downham wrote those chapters was just so well done. In the end, it felt like Tessa was someone I knew, and I mourned when she died. At some points, I was so wrapped up in the story, it felt like I was the one who was dying, and wanted less to complete my own bucket list, the things that I had thought of that I wanted to do, but to relish every small thing. I received a text from a mate while I was reading saying he was just saying on the sofa, and I just so wanted to do the same myself, like I hadn't done it in years. Just something small that would be so good. That was pretty much what Tessa was doing. It made me so happy to be alive, and want to notice things more, take less for granted.

Before I Die may just be the most amazing book I've ever read. Simply brilliant. Cannot wait to read more by Downham.

Published: 5th July 2007
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Buy on Amazon US


  1. I felt the same way when I read this book! I cried like a baby too which I also mentioned in my own blog!!! I don't think I will ever forget this book!

    Great Review =D

  2. I's just brilliant, isn't it? I don't know how anyone could not cry! Lol. I absolutely loved it, amazing!

  3. WOW great review i'm going to have to get this book

    annmarie best books

  4. Thank you! It's amazing, I hope youy enjoy it!

  5. Aww, what a great review. This one completely blew me away. I was already pretty emotional as it is, as I was pregnant with my Littlest when I read it. Despite really, really needing the sleep I stayed up until some crazy hour in the morning reading it and sobbing and hugging my stomach. When I finished it, I wanted to immediately hug every member of my family and tell them I loved them. It's such a powerful and moving book, I'm so glad you read it and that it had a profound impact on you as well.

  6. Aw, thank you! :)Oh wow, what a time to read such a book! It was absolutely wonderful! But so, so sad!

  7. great review :), i was exactly the same: crying uncontrollably!
    i kind of get why the drugs, sex, breaking the law where on her list though. im a seventeen year old and havent done any of these things, but while reading this i knew that these things would be going through my head aswell. Jenny Downham wrote it perfectly in character for an average teenage i think.
    i love this book, glad you liked it too :)

  8. I would be considered an adult now (unfortunately), but I've not done those things either. I could possibly understand wanting to have sex, but not casual sex, that's never been something I wanted. Plus I have always been completely against drugs and breaking the law. I guess I never was an average teen :) But I just didn't get it because none of those things are me, I suppose.
    But yes, a fantastic book! :)

  9. I love this book and agree with you about the way it's enough to make you cry. I scared my parents I was crying so much.

  10. It's brilliant! I just loved it! :)