{Review} Before I Die by Jenny Downham


{Review} Before I Die by Jenny DownhamBefore I Die by Jenny Downham
Publisher: David Fickling Books on July 5, 2007
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (YA), Realistic Fiction (YA)
Pages: 336

Our Rating

4 Stars

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, and 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, are all painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time runs out.

This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.


This book is about dying. And I’m not giving anything away because it states right in the summary that Tessa is going to die. There is no miracle cure that her family discovers in the last second; she dies. I read a lot of reviews before I bought this book on Amazon, and I feel like a lot of people expected there to be a happy ending. So I’m going to tell you right now, there is no HEA for this book.

Tessa is a teenage girl with cancer, and any treatment she receives is not to fight her cancer but to just prolong her life a little bit longer. She’s been told her is going to die, her family knows, her best friend Zoey knows.

Tessa is still virgin. She’s never even been kissed. She doesn’t have a license. With her time limited she makes a list of things she wants to accomplish before she dies. Sex, fame, saying yes to everything for a whole day, breaking a law. Getting her divorced parents back together. Trying drugs. Love.

Zoey helps her accomplish a few things on her list. Though I have to say, Zoey is the reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars. She’s a horrible friend. I understand that she’s dealing with a lot, slowing losing her best friend and something else life changing happens to her and that can make people act out but she’s kind of a b****. She does get better towards the end but overall she was just an unlikable character to me.

Tessa moves through her list. She has sex. She steals her dad’s car. She shoplifts. She tries drugs. She throws temper tantrums. She lies. She manipulates. She tests the limits. She’s downright mean to her family at times, but if you were a teenage girl whose life was ending soon, you’d probably be a jerk, too. She’s angry and has a right to be.

Tessa meets Adam, the kind of cute boy next door. At one point, she calls him ugly, but she likes his smile. He’s sweet and shy. He likes her despite the dark shadows under her eyes, her bald head, and her red blotchy skin. She gets to cross love off her list. (But there is no whirlwind romance here. Her and Adam’s relationship is sweet, but it’s also awkward and slow to start.)

I suppose I like this book because I’ve watched someone die. I’ve watched someone lash out because it’s not fair you get to live and they don’t. I know what a family goes through. Maybe I’m getting a little too morbid and personal here but this book is pretty accurate in terms of portraying what life is like when you know you don’t have time left.

If you are not moved to snot-sobbing tears at the end of this book, then you have no soul.

I’m kidding. You might have a soul, but this type of book is not for everyone. That’s cool. But if you think you can handle this type of book, then dive in, I think you’ll enjoy it.

About Jenny Downham

Jenny Downham (born 1964) is a British novelist and an ex-actor. In her first book, Before I Die, the fictional account of the last few months of a sixteen-year-old girl who has been dying of leukemia for 4 years. The book is told in the first person. The book was acclaimed and was short-listed for the 2007 Guardian Award and the 2008 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year, nominated for the 2008 Carnegie Medal and the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize, and won the 2008 Branford Boase Award.

Author: punkfarie

punkfarie lives in a virtual house of books, where she visits lands filled with knights and princesses and fairies and witches and dragons, and her best friends are vampires and zombies. Find more of her reviews at Punk's House of Books.

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