Before I Die

( 497 )

Overview

For the many readers who love The Fault in Our Stars, this is the story of a girl who is determined to live, love, and to write her own ending before her time is finally up.

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 ...

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Before I Die

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Overview

For the many readers who love The Fault in Our Stars, this is the story of a girl who is determined to live, love, and to write her own ending before her time is finally up.

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 runs out.

A 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

The newly released feature film Now Is Good, starring Dakota Fanning, is based on Jenny Downham's intensely moving novel.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This beautifully crafted, eloquent novel transforms what at first seems a depressing topic (a teenager dying from leukemia) into a life-affirming, uplifting portrait of a young woman determined to live her life as fully as she can in the short time that she has left. As the heroine, 16-year-old Tessa, sets out to complete a list of things she yearns to experience before dying, her actions are genuine, her emotions raw and powerful. She's a character teens can relate to, though her situation is one most of us can't fathom. This novel brilliantly addresses the subject of death with love, anger, humor, and honesty, and, through the experiences of its brave heroine, relates a powerful message that will resonate with readers.
John Burnham Schwartz
If it sometimes seems as though the world is killing itself—the papers are full of spectacular evidence—here, between covers, is something to live for. Yes, a book, a first novel no less, about a 16-year-old girl dying of leukemia. This may sound too depressing for words, but it is only one indication of the inspired originality of Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, that the reader can finish its last pages feeling thrillingly alive…All the way through, Downham gives Tessa the power to tell her own truth, to represent her imperfect, all-too-human self, as well as the imperfect, all-too-human selves of those around her, without regard to the opinions and values of others. The result is as honest and indelible a portrait of a young adult at risk—no, beyond risk—as one is likely to find in recent literature. One of the more surprising revelations to be found in Before I Die is that it's a "young adult novel" only in the sense that readers Tessa's age are perhaps the ideal audience for a true story about death. I don't care how old you are. This book will not leave you.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Parry delivers a genuine, unflinching performance as Tessa, a terminally ill British teenager determined to cram all the living she can into her final days. Tessa's ultimate to-do list includes more acts of abandon than accomplishments: having sex, doing something illegal and falling in love. But Parry's skillful narration combined with debut novelist Downham's honest and direct writing style keep this from becoming a hokey caper or melodramatic "after-school special" listening experience. Parry laudably colors her reading with the broad range of raw emotion that Tessa experiences, from rage and fear to even a few moments of euphoria. She captures an authentic dynamic among the people in Tessa's inner circle, including her anxious, heartbroken father, exuberant best friend and steadfast, Scottish-sounding boyfriend. Most memorably, listeners hear Tessa's unspoken words-snippets of inner monologues, dreams and flashes of memories that drift into her fading consciousness as she lays dying. Strains of mournful, soulful music close the program; the result is both wrenching and cleansing. Ages 14-up. Simultaneous release with the Random/Fickling hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 6). (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Vicki Foote
Sixteen-year-old Tessa is dying of cancer. She has only a few months to live. Written in the first person, this novel follows her inner thoughts as she confronts the fact that her life is almost over. She becomes angry and defiant and makes a list of things to do before she dies, including drugs and sex among other things. She accomplishes most of the things on her list even though she temporarily alienates some of the people who are closest to her. She eventually does find love, as well as an appreciation of life and her family that she had never experienced before. Believable characters and realistic reactions to the situations make the emotional ending a quiet tragedy. The good writing makes this difficult subject enlightening without being remorseful. It is an amazing and insightful look at how one family faces a heart-wrenching loss. Reviewer: Vicki Foote
Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
This story takes place in England and uses some unfamiliar British words. Diagnosed four years ago, Tessa now rebels against her fate of dying from cancer of the blood (leukemia) at fifteen. She has a list of ten things she wants to do before she dies. For the first one, she and her girlfriend Zoey go out and find strangers to have sex with. The second thing is trying drugs. She becomes friends with the boy next door, Adam, who has recently lost his father. He takes her for a motorcycle ride. Next Tessa shoplifts, is caught, and is remanded to her father. She takes her dad's car without telling him and drives forty miles to a seaside resort her family stayed in when she was a child. She has no license and barely knows how to drive as witnessed by her friend Zoey who is pregnant. Her dad has taken off four years from work to look after Tessa and her now ten-year-old brother, Cal, because Mother took off with another man. Mom has difficulty facing things. The father and brother are absolutely kind and supportive, which seems unrealistic. Adam becomes a true love and sticks by her to the end. Some will be attracted by the explicit sex at the beginning and near the end. The ending shows more and more blank spaces on the page as Tessa approaches death. Beautiful descriptions of nature lighten the heavy subject matter. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
Tessa has a list of things to do before she dies. Her chemotherapy is no longer working and her four-year struggle with leukemia will soon end. Sometimes angry and rebellious, other times exhausted and forlorn, the 16-year-old Brit in Jenny Downhom's novel (David Fickling Books, 2007) crams sex, drugs, and a few illegal acts into the few months she has left. Best friend Zoë abets her outrageous acts until Zoë's pregnancy test comes out positive. Tessa's dad is steadfast and patient, her little brother is often torn between deep concern and jealous frustration, and her once runaway mom is loving, but occasionally distant. Adam, Tessa's new boyfriend, is helping his emotionally-fragile mother after his father's recent death, but in her last days, he's her constant, comforting companion. Told from Tessa's viewpoint, even in her last moments, the story draws listeners into a gut-wrenching range of real emotions. Narrator Charlotte Porrus is both ethereal and passionate as she conveys all these feelings. With its uncompromising reflections on the harsh realities of terminal illness and straightforward descriptions of sex and drugs, this title is most appropriate for a mature teen audience. For public libraries and high school libraries with liberal collection development policies.
—Barbara WysockiCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
With only months left to live, 16-year-old Tessa makes a list of things she must experience: sex, petty crime, fame, drugs and true love. Downham's wrenching work features a girl desperate for a few thrilling moments before leukemia takes her away. Although Tessa remains ardently committed to her list, both she and the reader find comfort in the quiet resonance of the natural world. Tessa's soul mate, Adam, gardens next door; a bird benignly rots in grass; psychedelic mushrooms provide escape; an apple tree brings comfort; and her best friend, Zoey, ripens in the final months of pregnancy. Downham's lithe, facile writing creates a chiaroscuro of life and death, of organic growth and decay. Although Tessa begins to see herself within the natural continuum, she still feels furious with her lot. She lashes out and behaves cruelly at times, making her believable to teen readers. Because her experience feels so palpable, readers will believe that the novel's final pages might offer a crystalline vision of death. Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent. (Fiction. YA)First printing of 100,000
From the Publisher
Review, NYTBR, October 14, 2007:
"This may sound too depressing for words, but it is only one indication of the inspired originality of Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, 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."
—John Burnham Schwartz

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007
"Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent."

Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly, August 6, 2007
"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."

Review, Entertainment Weekly, September 21, 2007
"Bound For Glory: This fall, five young authors deliver breakout books packed with razor-sharp writing."

Review, Entertainment Weekly, September 28, 2007
"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-"

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385751834
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 82,204
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

This is Jenny Downham’s debut novel. She lives in England.

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Read an Excerpt

I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger. Whenever I wanted, I could get him out and he’d look at me the way boys do in films, as if I’m beautiful. He wouldn’t speak much, but he’d be breathing hard as he took off his leather jacket and unbuckled his jeans. He’d wear white pants and he’d be so gorgeous I’d almost faint. He’d take my clothes off too. He’d whisper, ‘Tessa, I love you. I really bloody love you. You’re beautiful’ – exactly those words – as he undressed me.

I sit up and switch on the bedside light. There’s a pen, but no paper, so on the wall behind me I write, I want to feel the weight of a boy on top of me. Then I lie back down and look out at the sky. It’s gone a funny colour – red and charcoal all at once, like the day is bleeding out.

I can smell sausages. Saturday night is always sausages. There’ll be mash and cabbage and onion gravy too. Dad’ll have the lottery ticket and Cal will have chosen the numbers and they’ll sit in front of the TV and eat dinner from trays on their laps. They’ll watch The X Factor, then they’ll watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? After that, Cal will have a bath and go to bed and Dad’ll drink beer and smoke until it’s late enough for him to sleep.

He came up to see me earlier. He walked over to the window and opened the curtains. ‘Look at that!’ he said as light flooded the room. There was the afternoon, the tops of the trees, the sky. He stood silhouetted against the window, his hands on his hips. He looked like a Power Ranger.

‘If you won’t talk about it, how can I help you?’ he said, and he came over and sat on the edge of my bed. I held my breath. If you do it for long enough, white lights dance in front of your eyes. He reached over and stroked my head, his fingers gently massaging my scalp.

‘Breathe, Tessa,’ he whispered.

Instead, I grabbed my hat from the bedside table and yanked it on right over my eyes. He went away then.

Now he’s downstairs frying sausages. I can hear the fat spitting, the slosh of gravy in the pan. I’m not sure I should be able to hear that from all the way upstairs, but nothing surprises me any more. I can hear Cal unzipping his coat now, back from buying mustard. Ten minutes ago he was given a pound and told, ‘Don’t talk to anyone weird.’ While he was gone, Dad stood on the back step and smoked a fag. I could hear the whisper of leaves hitting the grass at his feet. Autumn invading.

‘Hang your coat up and go and see if Tess wants anything,’ Dad says. ‘There’s plenty of blackberries. Make them sound interesting.’

Cal has his trainers on; the air in the soles sighs as he leaps up the stairs and through my bedroom door. I pretend to be asleep, which doesn’t stop him. He leans right over and whispers, ‘I don’t care even if you never speak to me again.’ I open one eye and find two blue ones. ‘Knew you were faking,’ he says, and he grins wide and lovely. ‘Dad says, do you want blackberries?’

‘No.’

‘What shall I tell him?’

‘Tell him I want a baby elephant.’

He laughs. ‘I’m gonna miss you,’ he says, and he leaves me with an open door and the draught from the stairs.

——————————————-
Zoey doesn’t even knock, just comes in and plonks herself down on the end of the bed. She looks at me strangely, as if she hadn’t expected to find me here.

‘What’re you doing?’ she says.

‘Why?’

‘Don’t you go downstairs any more?’

‘Did my dad phone you up?’

‘Are you in pain?’

‘No.’

She gives me a suspicious look, then stands up and takes off her coat. She’s wearing a very short red dress. It matches the handbag she’s dumped on my floor.

‘Are you going out?’ I ask her. ‘Have you got a date?’

She shrugs, goes over to the window and looks down at the garden. She circles a finger on the glass, then she says, ‘Maybe you should try and believe in God.’

‘Should I?’

‘Yeah, maybe we all should. The whole human race.’

‘I don’t think so. I think he might be dead.’

She turns round to look at me. Her face is pale, like winter. Behind her shoulder, an aeroplane winks its way across the sky.

She says, ‘What’s that you’ve written on the wall?’

I don’t know why I let her read it. I guess I want something to happen. It’s in black ink. With Zoey looking, all the words writhe like spiders. She reads it over and over. I hate it how sorry she can be for me.

She speaks very softly. ‘It’s not exactly Disneyland, is it?’

‘Did I say it was?’

‘I thought that was the idea.’

‘Not mine.’

‘I think your dad’s expecting you to ask for a pony, not a boyfriend.’

It’s amazing, the sound of us laughing. Even though it hurts, I love it. Laughing with Zoey is absolutely one of my favourite things, because I know we’ve both got the same stupid pictures in our heads. She only has to say, ‘Maybe a stud farm might be the answer,’ and we’re both in hysterics.

Zoey says, ‘Are you crying?’

I’m not sure. I think I am. I sound like those women on the telly when their entire family gets wiped out. I sound like an animal gnawing its own foot off. Everything just floods in all at once – like how my fingers are just bones and my skin is practically see-through. Inside my left lung I can feel cells multiplying, stacking up, like ash slowly filling a vase. Soon I won’t be able to breathe.

‘It’s OK if you’re afraid,’ Zoey says.

‘It’s not.’

‘Of course it is. Whatever you feel is fine.’

‘Imagine it, Zoey – being terrified all the time.’

‘I can.’

But she can’t. How can she possibly, when she has her whole life left? I hide under my hat again, just for a bit, because I’m going to miss breathing. And talking. And windows. I’m going to miss cake. And fish. I like fish. I like their little mouths going, open, shut, open.

And where I’m going, you can’t take anything with you.

Zoey watches me wipe my eyes with the corner of the duvet.

‘Do it with me,’ I say.

She looks startled. ‘Do what?’

‘It’s on bits of paper everywhere. I’ll write it out properly and you can make me do it.’

‘Make you do what? The thing you wrote on the wall?’

‘Other stuff too, but the boy thing first. You’ve had sex loads of times, Zoey, and I’ve never even been kissed.’

I watch my words fall into her. They land somewhere very deep.

‘Not loads of times,’ she says eventually.

‘Please, Zoey. Even if I beg you not to, even if I’m horrible to you, you must make me do it. I’ve got a whole long list of things I want to do.’

When she says, ‘OK,’ she makes it sound easy, as if I only asked her to visit me more often.

‘You mean it?’

‘I said so, didn’t I?’

I wonder if she knows what she’s letting herself in for.

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Introduction

Before reading this book, discuss the five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Write a letter from the point of view of a dying person that expresses one of these stages of grief.

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Foreword

1. Describe Tessa’s relationship with her father. How has this relationship been shaped by Tessa’s illness? Debate whether Cal, Tessa’s younger brother, feels neglected by his father. Discuss Tessa’s relationship with her mother. Why did she leave home? When does Tessa miss her mother the most?

2. Discuss the true qualities of a friend. Which of these qualities best describes Tessa and Zoey’s friendship? What does Zoey offer Tessa that her father cannot give? Why does Tessa’s father call Zoey when Tessa won’t get out of bed? Cal hates Zoey. How does Tessa explain her friendship with Zoey to her little brother?

3. Tessa's father is frustrated when she becomes withdrawn. He says, “If you won’t talk about it, how can I help?” (p. 2) How does this withdrawal represent the first stage of grief? Why is talking about feelings always better than keeping them to yourself?

4. Discuss why Tessa doesn’t want to return to school. She says that Zoey is the only person at school that isn’t afraid of her illness. Explain how difficult it is for teenagers to deal with the terminal illness of a classmate. What might Zoey say to other students that would help them know how to interact with Tessa?

5. Tessa writes her private thoughts on the wall beside her bed. Why does she let Zoey read what she has written?

6. Zoey tells Tessa that it’s all right to be afraid. How does Tessa reveal her fear? How does she use her hat to hide her fear? Discuss how Cal, Adam and Tessa’s father express their fear.

7. How is Tessa’s list a form of bargaining and acceptance? At what point in thenovel does Tessa accept the fact that she is dying? Explain how her list helps her “get on with living.” Which item on her list is the most dangerous? Why does doing illegal things like shoplifting and driving without a license give Tessa a thrill?

8. Tessa’s father wants to know the things on her list. He says, “I need to know about it, not because I want to stop you, but because I want to keep you safe.” (p. 80) Discuss how Tessa reacts to her father when he asks to see the list.

9. Discuss the conversation between Tessa and her father after she is caught shoplifting. Why does he think anger is taking her over?

10. How is Tessa’s list confusing to her father? Explain how Tessa’s list is self-centered. Her mum tells her, “You have to think about the people who love you.” (p. 170) At what point does Tessa begin to think about Cal and her father? Explain why Tessa’s mother speaks in past tense when she says, “we loved you.” Why is it unrealistic for Tessa to think that she can rekindle her parents’ relationship?

11. Why do you think sex is number one on Tessa’s list of things she wants to do before she dies? Tessa worries about being a “slag” if she has sex with someone that she doesn’t know. Explain Zoey’s reaction to Tessa’s thoughts.

12. Tessa says that walking up the stairs behind a boy she doesn’t know reminds her of hospital corridors. What do the stairs and the corridors symbolize?

13. Discuss the moments in the novel that Tessa is most depressed. Who helps her deal with her depression?

14. Why does Zoey suspect that Tessa is in love with Adam? What does Zoey mean when she says, “I thought you understood the rules! Never let a bloke into your heart—it’s fatal”? (p. 88) Why is Adam different than Zoey? Discuss what Adam means when he says, “I can’t give you what you want.” (p. 117) What does he ultimately give her? What does she offer him?

15. Tessa asks the home health care nurse if she believes in God. What is the significance of this inquiry? Tessa tells the nurse that she doesn’t believe in heaven. Discuss the nurse’s reaction to Tessa’s confession. Why does the nurse think a support group might be helpful to Tessa? How does Tessa’s list take the place of a support group?

16. How does Tessa’s dad react when he finds out Zoey wants to terminate her pregnancy? Discuss how his opinion is related to Tessa’s terminal illness.

17. Sorrow, loneliness, anxiety, and guilt are emotions associated with grief. How does each of the characters in the novel deal with these emotions?

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Reading Group Guide

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS...

1. Describe Tessa’s relationship with her father. How has this relationship been shaped by Tessa’s illness? Debate whether Cal, Tessa’s younger brother, feels neglected by his father. Discuss Tessa’s relationship with her mother. Why did she leave home? When does Tessa miss her mother the most?
2. Discuss the true qualities of a friend. Which of these qualities best describes Tessa and Zoey’s friendship? What does Zoey offer Tessa that her father cannot give? Why does Tessa’s father call Zoey when Tessa won’t get out of bed? Cal hates Zoey. How does Tessa explain her friendship with Zoey to her little brother?
3. Tessa’s father is frustrated when she becomes withdrawn. He says, “If you won’t talk about it, how can I help?” (p. 2) How does this withdrawal represent the first stage of grief? Why is talking about feelings always better than keeping them to yourself?
4. Discuss why Tessa doesn’t want to return to school. She says that Zoey is the only person at school that isn’t afraid of her illness. Explain how difficult it is for teenagers to deal with the terminal illness of a classmate. What might Zoey say to other students that would help them know how to interact with Tessa?
5. Tessa writes her private thoughts on the wall beside her bed. Why does she let Zoey read what she has written?
6. Zoey tells Tessa that it’s all right to be afraid. How does Tessa reveal her fear? How does she use her hat to hide her fear? Discuss how Cal, Adam and Tessa’s father express their fear.
7. How is Tessa’s list a form of bargaining and acceptance? At what point in the novel does Tessa accept the fact that she is dying? Explain how her list helps her “get on with living.” Which item on her list is the most dangerous? Why does doing illegal things like shoplifting and driving without a license give Tessa a thrill?
8. Tessa’s father wants to know the things on her list. He says, “I need to know about it, not because I want to stop you, but because I want to keep you safe.” (p. 80) Discuss how Tessa reacts to her father when he asks to see the list.
9. Discuss the conversation between Tessa and her father after she is caught shoplifting. Why does he think anger is taking her over?
10. How is Tessa’s list confusing to her father? Explain how Tessa’s list is self-centered. Her mum tells her, “You have to think about the people who love you.” (p. 170) At what point does Tessa begin to think about Cal and her father? Explain why Tessa’s mother speaks in past tense when she says, “we loved you.” Why is it unrealistic for Tessa to think that she can rekindle her parents’ relationship?
11. Why do you think sex is number one on Tessa’s list of things she wants to do before she dies? Tessa worries about being a “slag” if she has sex with someone that she doesn’t know. Explain Zoey’s reaction to Tessa’s thoughts.
12. Tessa says that walking up the stairs behind a boy she doesn’t know reminds her of hospital corridors. What do the stairs and the corridors symbolize?
13. Discuss the moments in the novel that Tessa is most depressed. Who helps her deal with her depression?
14. Why does Zoey suspect that Tessa is in love with Adam? What does Zoey mean when she says, “I thought you understood the rules! Never let a bloke into your heart–it’s fatal”? (p. 88) Why is Adam different than Zoey? Discuss what Adam means when he says, “I can’t give you what you want.” (p. 117) What does he ultimately give her? What does she offer him?
15. Tessa asks the home health care nurse if she believes in God. What is the significance of this inquiry? Tessa tells the nurse that she doesn’t believe in heaven. Discuss the nurse’s reaction to Tessa’s confession. Why does the nurse think a support group might be helpful to Tessa? How does Tessa’s list take the place of a support group?
16. How does Tessa’s dad react when he finds out Zoey wants to terminate her pregnancy? Discuss how his opinion is related to Tessa’s terminal illness.
17. Sorrow, loneliness, anxiety, and guilt are emotions associated with grief. How does each of the characters in the novel deal with these emotions?

ABOUT THIS BOOK...

Seventeen-year-old Tessa struggles to work through a list of things she wants to do before she dies as her battle with leukemia comes to an end.

Seventeen-year-old Tessa was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 12. That was the same year that her mother left home. Now, Tessa is in the finally stages of her illness, and there are a list of things that she wants to do before she dies. This list confuses her father, who has quit his job to take care of her, but he ultimately understands that the list helps her focus on life rather than death. Zoey, Tessa’s best friend, is by her side as she moves down the list. There are many symbolic relationships and events that help Tessa face her untimely death. Among them are Adam, a neighbor who is dealing with his own loss, but gives Tessa the romance that she is seeking; her mother’s brief reappearance in her life; and, a return to a favorite family vacation spot. 

BEFORE READING THE BOOK
Discuss the five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Write a letter from the point of view of a dying person that expresses one of these stages of grief.

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR...

Jenny Downham trained as an actor and worked in alternative theatre before starting to write. She lives in London.

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    Posted November 25, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Humbling

    I just read this book and am in complete awe of the author's talent. I saw this book in the bookstore and was intrigued by the title and it's placing in the young adult section. I started thinking; is this really written from the perspective of a dying person, a dying young person? I picked it up and read the first few sentences for the blurb (I don't like to know too much about a novel before I read it) and it confirmed my initial suspicion. I simply had to read it.<BR/>Downham is amazing. She has a beautiful, lyrical voice that cuts to the heart of the matter. It's heartfelt without being melodramatic. As I was reading I was laughing, crying, and laughing again. Even though it's a tough subject matter, it's an incredibly uplifting book. A book that makes you feel more alive than you ever have, a book that makes you reflect on your life and the purpose of it. Having read the book, I am feeling full of optimism about tomorrow, about the promise that it holds and the things I want to achieve. I cannot emphasise enough how great this book is. If you're looking for a read that will shake you from the complacency of life and make you take stock, make you feel, and make you want to bow down in awe at someone's talent, then Before I Die by Jenny Downham is a must read.

    24 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

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    Real

    This book is real and emotionally enrapturing. Downham holds nothing back as she describes a teenager in her final days. Its all in here: sex, drugs, illness, and death. But that doesn't keep the novel from being uplifting. Overall, its a tribute to life, and how little we have of it. The book itself is written marvelously. Its simple and real, with splashes of beautiful prose thrown in. I loved it, and I understand its not for everyone, but I fully recommend it.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2009

    Remarkable!

    This book is something that changed my life. Many say that, but this book really did make me rethink how I lived. When I finished, it made me want to write a bucket list myself! The sarcastic tone that sixteen-year-old Tessa spoke and the extreme situations she got into made me laugh and cringe throughout the book. The edgy tone and content made me respect the book even more. Jenny Downham portrayed exactly how I believe I would feel if put into that situation. She discusses many contreversial subjects that teenagers go through. Anywhere from sex, drugs, and friend, she hits the real view of a rebellious teen to a tee. I find I am most interested in racy books that suprise and exhilarate me, and this book did just that. As most know the ending when they begin this book, I expected it, yet found myself crying anyways. The details Downham put into it made me picture every movement and character. I fell in love with Adam, even though I did not like him at the beginning. He brother Cal made me laugh and tear up with his naive honestly with his older sister. I could understand where her father came from with the way he treated his only daughter and her mother made me crazy at times, but she was an important part to understanding how Tessa acted. Zoey was hard to understand at first, but I felt that after Zoey got pregnant, we saw the real side of her. All and all, I believe this book is one of the best I have ever read. It honestly inspired me to rethink my life and how I want to live it.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

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    Didn't Even Finish It...

    Like the title says I didn't finish it. I don't know...I just couln't finish it...
    Maybe it's the fact that the number 1 thing to do on her list is well...I'd rather not say...
    I got to the part were her and her friend go to a bar and meet some guys and go back to their house and well lets just say that it gives you a good image of what's going on...
    It's not for anyone under 14!!!
    My cuz got this book and she keeped laughing ever 2 senteces...
    She's 13...
    It's not the the best book I've ever read. (I didn't even finish it! I know I've said that a million times!!!)
    If you want a good book look at the books I've recommended, those are good books.

    8 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2009

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    Not what i thought

    i thought this book was going to be way more interesting. Well i was wrong. So save yourself sometime and don't pick up this one.

    7 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2008

    Read it!

    Grab this book and a box of Kleenex (no bookmark needed). A very good, inspiring, and real book

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2008

    Before I Die

    Before I Die is a beautiful novel. The characters are so relatable and don't feel like characters and this story never feels like a story. The whole book is about Tessa, a girl recently diagnosed with cancer who now knows for a fact that her treatment will stop and she will not get better. Basically Tessa is on her death bed. Before she dies she has a list of things she wants to do before she dies that aren¿t all exactly pleasant such as her number one wish losing her virginity. Although this seemed as though it would be fun it turns out to be quite the opposite but Tessa keeps going with her list and the end completes the novel with extreme sadness but dignity. This novel was great.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A book to behold

    The story of Tessa and her life with cancer. she only has weeks to live before she dies and she made a list of things to do before she dies and the first item on the list is sex. at first it was hard to like Tessa her motives we're selfish but more along her journey she meets Adam and this is when her story becomes more meaningful. it show's how life will always go on even when she is dead. This book I recommend to anyone and everyone its shows the real meaning living your life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Recomended;Very good; I love it !

    This book is so well written you just wanna cry every time she goes to the hospital. You feel her pain and you sort of relate. This book is so amazing. I love to read books like Evernight.Evermore,Blue Moon,Twilight,13 Reasons Why,and Kissed By An Angel. This book is now in that categorie. I really recomend this book to anyone

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2009

    Amazing book and story... unforgetable

    My sister went into the grocery store(to get one thing) as I was nearing the end, (since I couldn't put it down) I started balling crying and my sister came out and my eyes were already so red and it was just simply an amazing book. Good for teens with context etc.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2009

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    Best Book I've Ever Read

    This is such a fantastic book. I'm a survivor of cancer so I really enjoyed reading this book. The main character I felt was a lot like myself which was such a nice element to this story. I find the characters amazing. I felt very emotional about Tessa and I must say I did cry more than once! This is a definite book that can be read over and over again. I recommend it to everyone that loves to read as much as I do.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2009

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    W-O-W....

    WOW doesn't even cover this book....real...deep...personal...struggle....love....trust....obligation...absolutely life changing...... This book makes you appreciate life way more than you did the following day....It makes you believe that you can truly do anything and everything that you want to because you never know when you'll depart from this Earth....Tessa's strength, will to keep going, and just overall determination to live her life despite what the doctors told her, despite her so-called limitations, and despite people's interpretations of how she looked and acted. She had the love of her family, her best friend Zoey, and her love Adam which helped her through this time. In Adam, she found that people really can stick by you and truly love you aside from just pity and guilt. Adam was crazy about her and didn't care that she had cancer which is amazing...you don't find many genuine people like that these days....the best friend Zoey is absolutely honest and definitely won't apologize for it which is great and Tessa needed someone like that in her life so nothing's sugarcoated...her dad truly amazing and strong to stick by his daughter through this traumatic years and her bro Cal is annoying but cared alot and loved Tess so much and as for her mom....well I'm glad she grew up and realized that family is the most important thing.... I recommend this book to anybody and everybody because it changes the way you look at the world around you and how you live each day and not take one moment for granted and take risks and just live carefree and do everything and anything you want because all the opportunities are out there and all you have to do is take them...so inspiring....read it now!!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    Great book

    I have read the book and it is amazing my mom cryed reading if u every get a chanse to read it u should

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2012

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    This book made me cry a whole river!

    I had been wanting to read Before I die for a long time, and then I just stumbled upon it in the library, and I just had to read it. So I did. And I loved it, and cried a lot. Just like most people who have read this book probably have.

    Before I die is not your stereotype sad story. The list made it a unique book. What would you want to do before you died? Tessa tries to do everything on the list. The list becomes her life, as far as she still has a life. But there are some things on the list that will be hard to accomplish. Love and be loved. It seems so hard. With the last power she has inside of her, Tessa completes the list. Some things are hilarious to read about, like the only-say-yes day she had, while others seemed impossible, like bring back together her parents.

    As I turned the pages of this book, I became fully aware of what was happening. Every page meant one page closer to Tessa's death. Even a miracle couldn't make her stay alive anymore. No-one should die at that age, or earlier.

    Tessa is one of the greatest characters ever. She has cancer but can still be happy, and she can still find the power to hang on to her life, even if that power is the list. Tessa was super realistic, and at one point in her process of accepting her own death she decided to stop giving a f*ck about her own life. And that's what made her so special. Then there was the YA-stereotype mean best friend. She didn't really interest me. And there was the Boyfriend, who was a-dor-able, he was so caring and protective, just like Tessa's dad. And the most amazing character from this book was Tessa's brother. He seemed to have accepted his sister's death, and was joking about it all the time, but when she was about to die he revealed his real feelings. That made me cry so much!

    Jenny Downham has a great writing style, and the pace of this story was great, too. I just wish the book wasn't so short...

    A recommender for every teen who likes sad tragic stories, or just wants to see how amazing his/her own life is.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2011

    Mehhhhhhh......

    Not really a good book at all. All that the girl does is have sex a million times which is just slutty and gross. Unless you enjoy reading about that kind of stuff i highly reccomend you DONT waste your time or money.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2010

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!

    Im 15 years old and my librian told me about this book in our High School library and I was the first one to read it. Its an amazing story about life, love, and death....by the end of the book I was in tears during Social Studies class. Its for anyone boy or girl teen or adut...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a powerful book that will stay with you-must read!

    Wow. This book is really fantastic. It sounds like its your average teen book love/death/sob story, but its so incredibly well written and eye opening. The main character has had cancer for four years, and has decided to stop treatment. She experiences an extreme range of emotions, all clearly written and totally believable, from anger to joy, sorrow to boredom. At times the characters are difficult to like, but there experiences always come through as authentic and sincere. This book opened my eyes to aspects of dying (and living) I'd never considered before. Though the end is emotional, its an uplifting story that won't leave you depressed for weeks. Can't reccomend this book enough, a definite must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    HeartWarming Book..

    I loved this book, it had a great storyline that is very real in todays society,someone with Cancer.But it really wasn't a story about a "someone" but a story about a brave girl that lived life care free until the moment she passed.I borrowed this book to a friend and she loved it too. So I would encrouage everyone of all ages to read this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2008

    review

    if you haven't read this book you need to a.s.a.p plus i recommend that you grab a box of tissues! i had cried will reading this book. it is so good and i recommend it to all mature teens and up.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2008

    Amazing!

    This book was truly amazing!It seemed as if it was written by someone who actually lived through this. It made me cry as well, and I dont think that any other book has. I, too, read this book in only 3 days! I like books about real life and if you do to then you should READ IT. I'm glad I did. I think that I will think better about life now. It was the best book I'd read in a while and it just makes me want to search for more books that are just as good, or even better (:

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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