I want to live before I die...

Before I DieJenny Downham
326 pages; published 2007





A thought stabs up, growing from my toes and ripping through me, until it stifles everything else and becomes the only thing I’m thinking. It fills me up, like a silent scream, I’ve been ill for so long, puffed up and sick, with patchy skin, flaky fingernails, disappearing hair and a feeling of nausea that permeates to my bones. It’s not fair. I don’t want to die like this, not before I’ve been lived properly. It seems so clear to me. I feel almost hopeful, which is mad. I want to live before I die. It’s the only thing that makes sense. (54)





Tessa has cancer. That scary c-word that equals hospitals, unwanted sympathy and the fear of death. And that’s exactly what’s in store for Tessa.

But Tess is only sixteen, and there are certain things she wants to experience before she dies. A list of the top ten is formed: Sex. Drugs. Driving a Car. Fame… Love. With her father so determined to find a cure for his undeniably terminally ill daughter, he is not prepared to help her meet her dying list. Best friend and wild child Zoey stands up, however, perfectly suited to the task ahead.

Tessa has comes to terms with her fate, as much as possible, but what she doesn’t expect is that the things one wants most in the world can shift right before your eyes, and that even if you get them, it may not be what you thought.

I’ll admit that the first few chapters of this book made me cringe. A young girl is dying and the first two things she wants are sex and drugs. And then her best friend arranges one night stands with perfect strangers, one of which spends a fair amount of time being referred to as “The Stoner Boy”. I almost closed the book and picked out a new one.

However I’m very glad that I didn’t. What I originally thought of as shallow, somewhat clich├ęd writing morphed, chapter by chapter, into a cleverly shaped maturation of the main character.

There were many things about this book that I simply loved: the utterly real portrayal of a father desperate to save his daughter, and struggling to do it all alone; the honest fear and curiosity of Cal, her younger brother…

Downham’s writing just got more and more touching as the book progressed, to the point where I was literally in tears. A surprisingly beautiful book. 4/5







Other Reviews

6 comments :

Becky said...

Here's my review of the book.

Diane said...

this one looks interesting; great review

debbiesworld said...

This sounds so good! Great review. I just requested it from my library.

Ladytink_534 said...

Wow. Just reading about that stuff made me cringe! There's no way I would have been able to finish this but I'm so glad that you persevered.

Joanne said...

I read this one just a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. More than anything it was the family that I enjoyed the most. Seeing how the father and brother had their own ways of facing such a horrible situation was both heart-breaking and warming. Great review!

Michelle said...

I read this in the last days of my youngest's pregnancy (hormones) and cried like a baby.