Before I Die by Jenny Downham is sharp, poignant, sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking story about 16-year old Tessa, a young woman living in London under the heavy veil of terminal lukemia. With just months left to live she makes a list on the wall behind her bed of the things she must experience before her life ends. Sex, drugs, learning to drive and falling in love are just some of the things she must do to really live life. While she’s free of the constraints of normal life to pursue her list, she is also constantly dogged by pain, exhaustion, sickness and her deteriorating condition.
While the premise has the potential to feel depressing, Tessa’s force of will, determination, anger and struggle have a power and poignancy that is hopeful and makes the reader feel alive. All the way through, Downham gives Tessa the power to tell her own truth, to represent her imperfect, all-too-human self, as well as the imperfect, all-too-human selves of those around her, without regard to the opinions and values of others. The result is as honest and indelible a portrait of a young adult facing death, and life, honestly.
- Posted by Cori