Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Before I Die

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Before I Die

by Jenny Downham

Before I Die by Jenny Downham X
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2009, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Before I Die

Print Review

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 brown hair pulled back in a scruffy, utilitarian bunch, a lick of mascara her only visible make-up, she does not play the literary star."

Downham started writing to use up some of the "playful energy" she'd been used to expending as an actor. She says, "I didn't think I was starting a novel. I just knew that it was helping me." She also didn't set out to write a book about a teenager dying of cancer. In a short interview with Entertainment Weekly she says, "I started with the voice. I didn't know Tessa was dying, she just seemed to be very sad and angry, and I wasn't sure why. After six months it became apparent. Also, when the London bombings happened [in July 2005], it struck me that so many people I knew were affected. Life becomes very concentrated and it really impacted the writing. I realized that when you put the clock ticking, in many ways you highlight the narrative drive." Full bio at BookBrowse.

Filed under

This "beyond the book article" relates to Before I Die. It originally ran in September 2007 and has been updated for the May 2009 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Dutch House
    by Ann Patchett

    The Dutch House is my introduction to Ann Patchett, which, after reading it, surprises me. I had ...

  • Book Jacket: Nights When Nothing Happened
    Nights When Nothing Happened
    by Simon Han
    A quiet atmosphere of dread permeates Simon Han's subdued debut novel Nights When Nothing Happened. ...
  • Book Jacket: Take It Back
    Take It Back
    by Kia Abdullah
    In Kia Abdullah's novel Take It Back, sexual violence advisor Zara Kaleel becomes involved in a case...
  • Book Jacket: Dark, Salt, Clear
    Dark, Salt, Clear
    by Lamorna Ash
    Named after Lamorna Cove in her mother's rural home county of Cornwall (located in southwestern ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    by Marie Benedict

    The real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie is perhaps her greatest mystery of all.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Fortunate Ones
    by Ed Tarkington

    An engrossing story of class, love, and loyalty for fans of Kevin Wilson's Nothing to See Here.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Waiting for the Night Song
by Julie Carrick Dalton
A startling and timely debut about friendships forged in childhood and ruptured by the high price of secrets.
Win This Book!
Win The House on Vesper Sands

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell

Introducing a detective duo for the ages who unlock the secrets of a startling Victorian mystery.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T T T Light F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.