Friday, 23 January 2009

Before I Die / Jenny Downham

Summary - Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, 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, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out.

Review - I have been crying solidly for the past thirty minutes, dampening my pillow as I read the end of this book. I didn't like Tessa and I hated myself for feeling that way. It took me most of the book to realise that I did care about her though and that her fast approaching death felt intensely real. I actually caught sobs in my throat, this piece of writing is that emotive (and I can be an unashamed brick wall at times.) There is no sentimentiality here, lacking that cringe factor that most TV writers make of death. It's piercingly real and painful as all heck.

I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger.”
Downham writes poetically. I have to admit that I found it overly wordy at times but then again I found myself sucked into the story. The characterisation is exquisite from her poor, self-sacrificing father to her daring friend, Zoey. This one defies the cliches of many authors attempts to depict a child's death, thumbs it's nose to those who criticise teen literature and screams for you to continue Tessa's journey. I found myself fighting this story as Tessa gave in to the eventuality of her death. Daeht isn't easy and neither is this book. But reading this was definitely worthwhile. I would highly recommended this novel, very deserving of the Silver Inky award.

Published: 2007
Format: Paperback, 326 pages
Publisher: Red Fox / Random House
Origin: UK
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NY Times interview

4 comments:

Shooting Stars Mag said...

My sister has this one and I really want to read it. It sounds amazing. I'm always interested in emotional titles like this.

Oh, and I just noticed that you'r from Australia? How cool!! I actually started a side project for all things NOT American called Bridge the Gap. Check it out if you like and feel free to give ideas if you have any!

-Lauren

Katie said...

I have been wanting to read this for a while! It looks soooo good! Good Review :D

Katie

Adele said...

Lauren - checked out your site, cool idea. If you want any help or need me to write some stuff for you then just ask.
It is an amazing book and I would recommended reading it. Beware tissues are necessary.

Katie - Thanks. I found it hard to write to be honest. I weirdly felt like I didn't like the protag but felt for her enormously. I guess that's a sign of a brilliant author.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Adele: I hope to read it as soon as I can. Tissues? Check, I'll be sure to have them.

And thanks, I'm glad you like the idea of the blog. Feel free to throw out ideas whenever. I'm always looking for new things!!!
If i need someone to post something, I'll definitely let you know.

-Lauren