Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die is the story of Tessa who has terminal cancer and has only a few months left to live.  Tessa is only sixteen and has made herself a list of things she wishes to do before she dies.

Firstly, I must say that this is one of the saddest novels that I have read, if not the saddest, but, it is also incredibly compelling and in spite of the subject being covered is not overly sentimental or bleak to read.  I wondered at first if I would struggle with it, after all it’s fairly difficult these days to find somebody whose life has not been affected by cancer and in that respect I thought it might be too hard to handle but that wasn’t the case at all.  Yes, it is sad, after all it’s about a sixteen year old with terminal cancer but it is really well written, interesting and manages to make you feel so much emotion for Tessa.

In terms of the characters, I liked Tessa.  I know at first she comes across as a bit uncaring or thoughtless and she sometimes stamps over other peoples’ feelings, particularly her dad’s, and at the back of all this is the ‘well I’m dying’ attitude.  But, she is dying, she’s young, she’s watching everybody else continuing with their lives whilst hers is slowly seeping away and on top of all that she is a teenager!  She wants to do teenage things – and one of those is rebelling a little bit.  For example, if you look at Tessa’s list it isn’t overly ambitious – she doesn’t want to fly around the world in a hot air balloon or climb the highest mountain, she just wants some normal teenage experiences and of course she has to assert herself in order to achieve some of those – always with an eye on her ever decreasing timeframe.  Also, in terms of the list – its ironic that Tessa goes out with a bloody minded attitude to achieve certain elements – for example to have sex – obviously she doesn’t want to die a virgin – and yet this wasn’t an enjoyable experience for her and then, when she is not looking love creeps up on her!

I also think that Tessa’s friend Zoe didn’t come across too well at times – but I didn’t dislike her.  She was there for Tessa even though she had her own problems to deal with and what Zoe does remind us of is that dealing with a terminal illness is not just difficult for those suffering the illness but for those around them as well.

What I particularly love about this book is that it makes me want to hug my family (right now).  It makes me think about making my days worthwhile – and by that I just mean enjoying them – and it makes me glad to be here!

I have JD’s next novel sat waiting to be read – I think I’ll get round to that one quicker than I did this!

Rating A

Before I Die

Before I Die

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2 Responses to “Before I Die by Jenny Downham”

  1. mesetageresenfranglais

    I read this one and I was crying so much in some parts I had to put it down. I know, can sound silly but it doesn’t happen to me to cry this much. So prepare you tissues everyone! I read the second as well. Enjoyed it but it was more for younger public and although before I die was as well, it didn’t matter, on the contrary of her second novel. It is still well written though.

    • lynnsbooks

      Im not surprised you cried. Its a very emotional story and probably emotive for lots of people. I havent read the second but thanks for the
      heads up.
      Lynn 😀

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