BookBrowse Reviews Before I Die by Jenny Downham

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Before I Die

by Jenny Downham

Before I Die by Jenny Downham
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2009, 336 pages

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A life-affirming showstopper for teens and many adults

Tessa is sixteen-years-old. She's been living with and fighting leukemia for much of her life, and now her body is failing. Precipitated by her illness her parent's marriage has fallen apart - her father is in denial, her mother is absent from her life most of the time, and her younger brother swings from loving her obsessively to just wishing she'd hurry up and die. Meanwhile, Tessa's got some living to do, and at the top of her Top-10 "Before I Die" list is to have sex, followed by try drugs; and who better to lead her through her list than her fast-living best friend, Zoey who exhorts Tessa to "live fast, die young" and have "a good-looking corpse".

During the first few chapters of Before I Die, adult readers will probably be asking themselves if this is really a book for them. ...

Childhood Leukemia
According to the American Cancer Society, leukemia is the most common cancer in children and adolescents accounting for about one in three cases but, overall, childhood leukemia is a rare disease. Of the estimated 3,800 USA children aged 0-19 who develop leukemia in a given year about three quarters are diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) - cancer effecting the white blood cells. Most of the remaining cases are acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) - cancer of the bone marrow. ALL is most common in early childhood, peaking between 2 and 4 years of age. Cases of AML are more spread out but are more common during the first 2 years of life and during the teenage years. The 5-year survival rate for children with ALL is now over 80%, and 50% for AML.

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