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Thursday, June 9, 2011

REVIEW: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

SYNOPSIS: Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, and 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, and her new boyfriend, are all painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

ACHIEVEMENTS(I had to mention this!) -
Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year

A Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Book Sense Children’s Pick
A Kirkus Reviews Editors’ Choice
A Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author
An ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

MY REVIEW: Before I Die is an intensely moving book of a very young girl fighting leukemia. The doctors have told Tessa that she hardly has time on her hands which impels her to make a list of things she wants to do before she dies. The narrative travels through Tessa's journey,fulfilling her wishes with the help of her (very)out-going friend Zoey. In the course,Tessa also falls in love and thus falls for life,upon which she had previously given up all hopes. Life is all rainbow colored for her now but even though the reader wants to root for her,wants her to have a few more months with her love(who is extremely sweet),she can only have that much time that was predestined for her and as life is snatched away cruelly from her,she dies a premature death.

Initially I didn't,rather couldn't comprehend Tessa's character much and felt somewhat distanced from her. She was rude to her brother and father,who loved her so much and always only wanted what was the best for her. Then there was her friendship with the outrageous Zoey,who I felt was extremely spoilt and helped Tessa do things which weren't good for her health,thus ushering her towards her end with the speed of lightning! I felt really annoyed at Tessa for being totally dependent on Zoey. I wanted to sort of shake her and tell her to get a life and make decisions of her own than blindly follow what Zoey commanded her to do! It took me time to warm up to Tessa's character. I soon realized that she was angry at life and living in general because of her condition,which was justified and she had no other way to vent out her anger than on the people she knew wouldn't leave her even if she told them too. Yes,she took them for granted but that's because she loved them back with equal force. She falls in love and achieves a fulfillment that she lacked in her life till then. I won't reveal whom she falls in love with,though it doesn't come too much as a surprise. The guy is extremely sweet and so loving and caring that at the end I sort of felt more sad for him than for Tessa!

Jenny Downham has done a great job with the book. Every character is well delineated. Tessa's views on things were really,umm...different. There were these things that she really wanted to do and her reactions upon accomplishing those were interesting.

Before I Die is an engrossing book,it is different from the frothy,fun teenager-ish YAs and is sure to take a toll on anyone's heart. The book totally broke my heart. It is so touching,especially the last quarter of the book. I challenge anyone not to shed a few tears while reading this book!



  1. Hi!!! i read this book yesterday, and yes, for a moment i want to shake Tessa character too, but then i felt sorry for her :( is... is not fair. its so much better when you just die, because the waiting can be so long and paintfull.
    one of my favorite character is Cal, he is so sweet, and funny, and cute :)

    i really enjoy the book ^^

    ps: sorry for the bad english :(

  2. I agree with you Cam. True,life isn't fair for her and that is why she vents out her anger on her family. The waiting,counting days till you die certainly is a very painful idea.

  3. Before I Die sounds sa, but good. Most YA books aew carefree but this seems really non-trivial.Thank you, for the review.