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.
Some books make you laugh. Some break your heart. Yet other make you feel good. Some end up bittersweet. Very rarely does a book make you feel profoundly alive. Jenny Downham’s Before I Die did just that to me.
If I could, I’d paint the words ‘Before I Die’ across the sky, so that everyone in this world reads this book.
Because Jenny Downham’s debut is so bloody brilliant you can't miss it.
Among the books I’ve read this year (and I’ve read a fair some), Tessa stands out from the other protagonists and if anyone’s planning to give her competition later this year, well, good just won’t do. You have to come up with someone pretty brilliant. Tessa is inconsiderate and selfish. Rude, even. And I just loved her. And wanted to know her. And never wanted this book to end (even though I was rushing in anticipation) because that would mean leaving Tessa. Because, you see, this book is a journey. One where you live with Tessa, in Tessa.
The voice is spot on, the writing pricks where it’s supposed to, caresses otherwise. It takes you to the edge, pushes you into the abyss and brings you out with even more belief in life. If that isn't wickedly awesome, what is?
Every character has a distinct personality, such that they seem to jump out of the pages. I could say who was saying what without reading the dialogue tags. People you meet everyday and don’t, too. Tessa’s Dad, Cal, Zoey.
Seldom do you meet a love interest like Adam.
Because firstly, he is ugly, and the writer makes that quite clear in an early chapter.
And secondly, he isn’t one to resort to witty remarks to floor the MC.
He is real. So real, infact, that he’s almost perfect in his depiction.
Like everything about this book is.
I wish I had written Before I Die. I wish I could write a book half as good as this one.
I want to read everything Jenny Downham is capable of writing. Because, oh god, after reading this, I have a massive author crush on her (in a non-creepy way).