30 May 2011

Book Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Release Date: July 5th, 2007
Publisher: David Fickling
Rating: 3 out of 5
Recommended? Yeah... perhaps
Buy the Book: Amazon US

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. - Goodreads Page
Struggling... Struggling...

I was really looking forward to reading this book, having heard that it’s a huge tearjerker, but... I’m not sure I liked it. I love Jenny Downham’s writing (her other book, You Against Me, is fantastic) and yet I just didn’t enjoy this book for some reason.

Honestly, without meaning to sound like I don’t give a crap, I think it was the main character that put me off. I understand that what she was going through must have been terrible – my grandmother had cancer, I know – but I didn’t like the way she was handling it. I didn’t like her list, I didn’t like how she treated her parents (mainly her dad) and I didn’t like how she treated Adam. Again, I know that she was dying, but still. I can’t honestly say how I would react if I was in her situation, but I can’t imagine myself acting the way she did.

Other than Tessa, the story was interesting. I kept picturing the girl from My Sister’s Keeper (movie version) and seeing the links between the two. It did make me upset, just because no one deserves to suffer or to die like that, and I did cry when I read Tessa’s letter to her dad.

I do recommend this book, because so many other people have loved it, and it gives a great insight to what it’s like for someone living with cancer. And what it’s like to know that you’re not going to live much longer. But I can’t say that it was an overly enjoyable read for me.


  1. l did really love this book and l think it's the only book that made me cry (from what l remember) but l do remember being angry with Tessa at some points!

  2. Thanks for the review! I've been looking forward to reading this one for a while, and I have a feeling that I'm going to feel much the way you did about it.

  3. Interesting! I think I would like to read this one for myself just to see how I like it since the premise sounds interesting.

  4. Jodie - Really? I cry all the time over books, haha!

    Kelly - No problem :) I'd love to hear what you think of it once you have read it, so let me know!

    Jillian - I can't wait to see what you think of it, when you do read it. I'd be interested to see if you feel the same way :)

  5. That's disappointing that the main character wasn't someone you could easily care about...The story does sound intriguing though. Thank you for your honesty :)

  6. I read 'Before I Die' about a year ago, and I thought it was a good book. Not having been in the exact situation, I think there are only 2 ways you can react. 1) take it in your stride, and live your life as normally as possible, feeling relaxed and at peace. OR 2) rebel, do whatever you want, when you want, because nobody is going to tell a dying person they can't. 'My Sister's Keeper' chose option 1, and 'Before I Die' chose option 2. Having read both books, I enjoyed them both.
    Yes, I found some of Tessa’s actions shocking, but she still managed to tug at the core of my heart. The last chapter was what started the tears for me. I thoroughly look forward to reading Jenny Downham’s second book, ‘You Against Me’ soon. Thanks for sharing your review :).

    -Alisa @ the Novel Nook


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