Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. Its 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. Tessas feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessas time finally runs out.
During the first few chapters of Before I Die, adult readers will probably be asking themselves if this is really a book for them. After all, haven't we done our time with teenage angst already and do we really want to experience it from the viewpoint of a perceptive, witty, but not always likable dying teenager? Many of those who stick through the sometimes disjointed opening chapters (disjointed because the author is channeling a teenage voice) to reach the heart of the novel will answer with a resounding yes, and all but the most hardened of cynics will be reaching for the Kleenex by the final chapters. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
In luminous prose that rings completely true, Downham earns every tear she wrings from her readers. I trust there will be many of them—many readers, and of course, many tears. A-
New York Times - John Burnham Schwartz
This may sound too depressing for words, but it is only one indication of the inspired originality of Before I Die that the reader can finish its last pages feeling thrillingly alive ... I don't care how old you are. This book will not leave you.
My adolescent friends, I never thought I would find the book that could knock my much beloved and oft-read copy of Norma Klein’s sob-inducing Sunshine out of the top tearjerker spot in my heart. But Before I Die has done it.
Like Sunshine, it’s not sappy, corny, or saccharine. It’s just a very clear-eyed, realistic portrayal of what it means to die young, and how it feels to die from this particular disease. Downham pulls no punches, she takes you
with Tessa right to the very end, an ending that you won’t forget, now or ever. To heck with the box of tissue, you’re gonna need stock in Kleenex to finish this one. But believe me, I’m not crying when I say this is one of the best books of 2007!
Bookdivas.com Before I Die is a brilliantly-crafted novel, heartbreaking yet astonishingly life-affirming. It will take you to the very edge.
ShelfAwareness - Jennifer M. Brown
Readers know the novel's ending from the start. What makes this journey worth taking is watching Tessa check off the items on her list; she lives each moment to the fullest, and inspires everyone around her--including readers--to do the same.
Starred Review. The eloquent dying teen can seem a staple of the YA novel, but this British debut completely breaks the mold. Downham holds nothing back in her wrenching and exceptionally vibrant story.
Starred Review. Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent.
The Guardian (UK)
The intolerability of what's to come spotlights a subtle truth, which Downham has captured well. That in life, despite all the warnings, no one ever quite believes the ending - destined to drive hundreds of thousands of readers to tears and to swift injunctions to all their friends to read it.
The Sunday Times (UK)
Dealing frankly with teenage life, Before I Die will be the year’s most talked-about novel.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Catherine Codie-Leigh Before I Die I am 18 and I thought I would have a different reading aspect on things, I then saw this book and thought i would have a go at reading it. I lost somebody close to me so when I started reading this book it made me cry for a good reason, am so glad... Read More
Rated of 5
by Hanna Woow It's was the best book ever. I was only 12 years but it doesn't matter. I appreciated a lot of the book with this style. With this book I realized that life was precious and we have only one. So, when you are healthy, this was the most important to... Read More
Rated of 5
by Chelbi Reality Darlynne I respect your viewpoint BUT it's naive and sheltered (not writing that to offend). Today's teens are and have been from a young age surrounded by sexual innuendos and messages where ever they turn whether the parent approves or not. Being... Read More
Rated of 5
by Stephanie This book is wonderful I have to disagree with Darlynne about it being pushed towards the younger ages, I mean the story is after all written from the perspective of a sixteen year old anyway, and I doubt we will be seeing seven year olds trying to get into the story.... Read More
Rated of 5
by Darlynne Concerned Parent This book is filled with graphic sexual content and should never be intended for a teenager. It should only be for mature audiences. Shame on the publisher for gearing this book towards a younger audience.
Rated of 5
by Dawn Loved this tearjerker! I'm an adult - late 40's - who loved this book. I just finished it last night, sobbing out loud.
I think it beautifully captured what it would be like for a teenage girl to die before her time and what it would be like for her family.
I found... Read More
About the Author
First time author Jenny Downham caused quite a stir with
Before I Die, a novel targeted at teens with crossover
appeal for adults in general. Publisher David Fickling (part
of Random House), who also publish The Curious Incident
of the Dog in the Night-Time, are so enthusiastic about
the book that they rushed the 2007 hardcover into press in a
fraction of the time normally taken, and foreign rights have
been sold in at least 11 languages .
According to a June 2007 article in the London Times,
written a month before Before I Die published in the
UK, nobody is more surprised by the buzz surrounding the
book than Downham herself, a single mother living on
benefits in a down-at-heel part of Hackney, east London. The
Times describes her as "a small, slim 43-year-old, dressed
inconspicuously in jeans and a blue anorak, she would
attract few second glances when walking her sons, aged 12
and 7, to school. Her...
New to town, Beatrice is seated next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship.
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