Title: Before I Die.
Author: Jenny Downham.
Publication Date: January 1st, 2007.
Publisher: David Fickling Books.
Format: Hardback, 336 pages.
Tessa has just 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, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.
Tessa just wants to be a normal 16 year old, to go out partying with her friends and fall in love. However, Tessa is dying of Leukaemia and is starting to get to the stage where things like that aren't possible for her anymore. But, Tessa has a list, a list of things she wants to do before she dies - the first thing on this list? To have sex. Her list varies from wanting to do drugs and breaking the law to getting her parents back together. Throughout this story, we follow Tessa and her best friend Zoey, as they try to complete Tessa's list before it's too late.
When I first started reading this book, I wasn't very sure whether I liked Tessa's character or not. She was pretty self-absorbed and irritating at times, although she does have her reasons for being so. Through-out the rest of the book, her character gradually began to grow on me more and more. By the end, she wasn't the best character I've read before, but I definitely liked Tessa a whole lot more the further I got into the book.
Zoey, Tessa's best friend, starts off being a really supportive (yet sort of corruptive) friend, but as the book goes on, she becomes more distant and starts acting quite rude, mean and not so much herself. However, she too has her reasons - even so, her character annoyed me a lot and I thought she could have been a bit more supportive than she was. As for Tessa's friend/neighbour/boyfriend - I loved him! He was an amazing character and so sweet, kind and supportive. When normal boys would have run a mile after finding out about Tessa's illness, he stayed and was there for her the entire time, right until the end. It's incredible how much love and devotion the teenage boy could hold.
This book brought me to tears on more than one occasion and I felt my heart ache for the characters. Even though the basic plot line to this novel is pretty simple and has been used loads of times before, it was written amazingly with a completely different take on it. The development of the characters was great and the emotion behind the whole story was incredible. I found myself feeling what the characters felt, the pain, the annoyance - everything each character kept locked up tight - fearing that showing this emotion would do harm, rather than good.
The reason I gave it 4/5 stars instead of 5/5, was because of how at times, the characters irritated me - also, how some parts/scenes were too rushed for my liking. Other than that, I thought it was an amazing, beautiful and moving book with a powerful moral behind it - death happens, even to the best of us, we can only try to enjoy the time we do have. Jenny Downham is an incredible writer and will probably become one of my favourites.