Saturday, 23 July 2011

Before I Die - Jenny Downham (2007)

I've been looking out for this since I read Downham's second book You Against Me. It is written in  the same clear, distinctively British way. It is a story of a teenage girl with terminal leukaemia. Despite the morbid subject matter, it's honest and not overly sentimental which is what sets it apart.

I love this book. I don't cry much, but this had me in tears for thirty pages straight. I'd definitely recommend giving this novel a try. 

Tessa is a sixteen-year-old girl with terminal leukaemia. She has a list of things she wants to do before she dies. This includes; having sex, doing drugs, getting her parents back together, getting famous, falling in love and saying yes to everything for a whole day. Her illness and reckless behaviour is sending her dad into depression. Her friend Zooey helps her tick off things on her list, including finding her a guy to hook up with. When Zooey gets pregnant, Tessa adds a new thing to her list - seeing Zooey's baby. Then Tessa forms a relationship with her neighbour Adam, who helps her tick off doing drugs. She goes on the radio with help from her dad to get famous, but shocks the host when she talks about her list explicitly. She also finds her parents sleeping in the same bed which fulfils another of her aspirations. Adam and Tess get closer and end up falling in love. When Tessa gets very sick, she pushes Adam away for fear he is only around because he feels obligated. Adam doesn't leave and stays with her until the end.