Monday, 15 November 2010

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

April 2010, David Fickling Books
336 pages, Paperback 
Review copy 

Young Adult

Living with cancer, teen relationships (including detailed physical relationships), infrequent moderate drug use, some strong language, family love and family friendship, divorce, living life to the full, tissues needed 

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.

Nayuleska's thoughts
I expected this book to be quite different. I hoped that Tessa would have acted a little more caring to those around her. She is a bit of a brat at times - understandably so because she's terrified of dying. This undoubtedly influences her actions in the book. I was a little sad that she felt she had to rush huge moments in her life. I realise she wanted to do them before she died, but she got hurt by doing them. I'd have preferred that she wasn't hurt so much. And yet, on the other hand, there is a sense of realism here. Not all people handle terminal (or chronic) illness well 100% of the time. There are moments when everyone cracks. Tessa does get disappointed, but she also has a .lot of fun too. Her brother Cal enjoys some of the fun, as does her friend Zoey. However, Tessa's desperation to do things brings out her wild side. She feels invincible because of her impending death. Her actions scare her family. Even right near the end Cal is uncertain of her because of how she's acted. Her parents are beside themselves with how to help her cope. She doesn't let them into her life very much. At the end, when it counts, they are always there for her. I cried while reading this. I wasn't as attached to Tessa as I'd hoped to be (because of her actions) but her story is moving, especially how the last few chapters are written. It captures Tessa's final moments perfectly. 

Final conclusion
An example of how some teens react when they haven't got much time left in this world. 

Be sure to check out Jenny's next book, You Against Me, due out at the beginning of December


Rhiana said...

People either Love or Don't with Tessa I think. Personally I Loved her and thought Jenny Downham got her spot on. I've never sobbed so hard a book as I did with this one.

Nayuleska said...

That is interesting to know :) I did tear up at the end.