Tuesday 19 April 2011

Review: Before I Die - Jenny Downham

It's really going to happen.  They said it would, but this is quicker than anyone thought.

Everyone has to die.  We all know it.

With only a few months of life left, sixteen-year-old Tessa knows it better than most.

She's made a list though - ten things she wants to do before she dies.  Number one is sex.  Starting tonight.

But getting what you want isn't easy.  And getting what you want doesn't always give you what you need.  And sometimes the most unexpected things become important.

Uplifting, life-affirming, joyous - this extraordinary novel celebrates what it is to be alive by confronting what it's really like to die.

I can't find a website for Jenny Downham but you can visit her Goodreads page here

Tessa is just 16 years old and she's dying of Leukemia.  She knew she would die young but she wasn't prepared for it to be happening so soon.  She wants to make the most of her last few months though and has written a list of 10 things she wants to do before she dies.  Can she achieve all of her goals in time?

I knew just from reading the blurb that this book would be a heart breaker but I didn't expect it to be as powerful as it was.  In many ways Tessa is a typical teenager, she is rebellious, stroppy and selfish but she also has big dreams and cares about her family and her friends.  At times she can come across as dislikable but considering her circumstances I think she had every right to be angry and to want to get her own way, that side of her character just made her all the more realistic to me.  Although I don't necessarily think all of the things she had on her list of things she wanted to do before she died were good ideas I'm pretty sure my list would have been very similar at her age.  Don't we all want to try dangerous things or things that aren't allowed when we're teens?

What I enjoyed most were Tessa's interactions with her Dad and younger brother Cal.  It wasn't easy for any of them and they all struggled to accept what was happening and find their own ways of dealing with the fact that Tessa was dying.  Some of the scenes with her and Cal were incredibly emotional, particularly towards the end of the book.  I also loved Adam, he was so brave to give his heart to Tessa knowing it would be broken when she was gone.  I don't think many people would be brave enough to put themselves in his situation.  I really didn't think much of Tessa's so called best friend Zoey though and think life would have been a lot harder for her if she didn't have Adam and her family to support her.

I don't think I've ever read a book that made me cry as hard as Before I Die.  I had trouble seeing through my tears to actually finish the book.  This was partly because it hit a little close to home and brought back a lot of memories of my Nan dying of cancer but it was also because Jenny Downham's writing was so beautiful.  Although the story will break your heart it will also make you appreciate every minute of your life.  I think we all take for granted how lucky we really are and sometimes it does us good to be reminded of that.  I'd recommend this book for anyone but whatever you do make sure you have tissues to hand because I'd be amazed if you reach the end without needing them!

Source: Received from RHCB in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.


  1. This sounds rather sad. I love the sound of the book, but I am worried it might upset me too much.

  2. Great review. I have this boos on my shelves. glad to read another positive review for it. ;)

  3. It's a beautiful book, isn't it? Great review!x

  4. I've actually got this book. My grandmother lent it to me about a year ago, but I still haven't got round to reading it. My brother did and he said it was one of the best books he has read, but the title alone just makes me sad. I will definitely try to read it sometime this year, so I can see for myself. Thanks for a great review!

  5. Lovely review and this book was exactly the same for me.
    I don't think l ever cried at a book until this one!

  6. I enjoyed this book so much. I think I cried through the whole book.

  7. SOunds like a real tear jerker. I haven't cried at a book for a long time but maybe it's time I did! :)

  8. Sounds so emotional. I'm not sure I can handle such sadness. Great review.

  9. @ Vivienne - I did enjoy this one but it's definitely one of those books you have to be in the right mood to read. If you're in need of a good cry this will do it for you that's for sure lol

    @ Nina - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did but whatever you do don't forget your tissues!

    @ Carly - it was a beautiful book but boy did it make me cry :o)

    @ Phanee - I think you'll enjoy it but you should wait until you're in the right mood before you read it. It is very sad but a brilliant book

    @ BooksforCompany - I've read a few books that have made me cry but none have affected me as much as this one did. I literally sobbed my heart out!

    @ ereader89 - I was ok through the first half of the book but I sobbed like a baby for the last few chapters & for ages after I'd finished reading lol.

    @ Mel - I'd definitley recommend this one, such a good book but I'd be amazed if it didn't make you cry

    @ Becky - it was a very emotional read but I wouldn't recommend it if you're not in the mood for a good cry



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