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Before I Die
Before I Die
Author: Jenny Downham
Tessa has just a few months to live. — Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests and drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her Before I Die list. And number one is sex. Starting tonight. — Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780385613538
ISBN-10: 0385613539
Publication Date: 7/31/2007
Pages: 336
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

5 stars, based on 1 rating
Publisher: Transworld Publ. Ltd UK
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover
Members Wishing: 0
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

ncsuz avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 77 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Before I Die by Jenny Downham is the story of a young girl, Tessa, who is dying. When the book starts she has been sick for some time and now she doesn't have long left.

Tessa does make a list of things she wants to do before she dies, but they consist of most of the things you would think a typical teenager would put on such a list like "Have Sex" and "Try Drugs". She also steals her dad's car one day to experience driving. I think she just wants to "be bad" and hey it is okay because she is dying anyway right?

She has a friend who enables her in indulging her "wild side". And sometimes she finds these things she thought would make her feel alive leave her feeling just a little bit empty.

She does end up falling in love which is sweet and it was interesting to see the thoughts of a teenage girl facing death, but overall I was not a big fan of the book. The end was pretty sad and I felt like her character really didn't grow that much over the course of the story.

It was an interesting book, but also really weird in a Catcher in the Rye type of way, and also pretty depressing.
PBAddiction avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I gave this book a 4 1/2 star rating, because it truly is a great book. That being said, I have to mention that it is also a very sad book. There is no magical fairy tale ending contained between it's pages. This is sixteen-year-old Tessa's story. She has Cancer, and regardless of her father's outlook on the situation she knows it is only a matter of time before she dies.

Tessa has a plan...

She will make a list. This isn't just any plain list though. It is a list of experiences that Tessa wants to have before she dies. She is determined to complete the list. When I finished reading this book I felt emotionally drained. I wouldn't recommend this book to people who become easily depressed, or enjoy happy endings.
sh0rtstak avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 89 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
After seeing such high reviews for this book I had high hopes. After reading it, I'm left wondering why people give it such high ratings. I work in the medical field and I have seen many different reactions from people who know they don't have long to live. The main character in this book, Tess, reacts in a way that is rather appalling to me. This book reminded me of "A Walk To Remember". Both have a teen girl dying, young love, and things to do before it's time to check out. How they deal with it is where the similarities end.
Tess decides to make a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Forgive me if I think having sex with a complete stranger, doing drugs, stealing a car, and shoplifting are things most people wouldn't put as a high priority. She's also cranky with her father who gave up his life to be there for her, her younger brother, and her best friend. While I can't say for sure how I or even my own teenage daughter would react when faced with the reality..I can pray we'd want to go out with a little more grace.
I know some people may argue and it's not my intention to offend anyone, I just think this book was less than even good. While I should have felt sorry for the main character, I felt more sorry for the people in her life she hurt along the way.
As a side note - This is written in British dialogue.
GeniusJen avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 5322 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for

I devoured this book in two days. It called to me. Beckoned me across the room and begged me to pick it up and finish what I'd started. If I hadn't needed to eat and sleep, I'd have finished it in mere hours. It was that vital to keep going.

Tessa Scott keeps going, too. She keeps writing on the wall and adding to the list of things she wants to do before she dies. Tess's life is being driven from her by leukemia before she herself can even drive a car. It's not fair. She wants a boyfriend. She wants normal.

Tessa pushes. She pushes against the people who want to be near her. She pushes against the rules she's been forced to follow throughout her brief life. She pushes against death.

She keeps breathing. In and out. It's simple. Except, it's not that simple.

This book gives a promise. This book keeps its promise. This book is real. It is deep and winding and important. It is beautiful and strong and eloquent and everlasting. It is just beautiful.
babyjulie avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 336 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This, this right here, if why I read YA. I like the fluff at times but this is the essence of YA for me.
I'm astounded by this book still. I'm not a cryer, I hardly ever cry when I'm reading a book or watching a movie. I don't cry when Bambi's mother dies, I don't cry when DiCaprio floats down to the bottom of the ocean, it's just not me. But when I read Tess's "instructions" nearing the end of the book I bawled like a baby. I don't think it's possible to not imagine. And as a parent, I imagined myself in Tess's fathers place, not me in Tess's place. And that, my friends, is even harder I think.
Downham did an outstanding job here and I'm praying when I click on her name I see others by her.
Tess is very relatable - teens will feel this even though she's dying and they may be healthy as a horse. Teens outside of the U.K. may have a bit of trouble relating to certain parts because of the speech used, 'loo', 'fags', etc. but I worked through that easily. I'm not much for U.K. slang but it wouldn't have been the same book without it.
Zoey. What to say about Zoey. I don't like Zoey. I hesitate to use the word hate - mostly because of the love Tess has for her I think. But I strongly dislike her and I hope my daughter doesn't ever have the misfortune of having a "friend" like her. Adam is awesome - awesome, awesome character. Loved his reservations and fears. I think I'd have liked to have seen that aspect touched on a little more but that's a slight grievance.
Tess's parents work with the story and I love that her father is the main parent player instead of the mother. I could keep going. I could pull piece after piece after piece of what I liked out.
If you like YA and you like touching stories this is for you. And this isn't like some books - this can definitely be read by people who cry easily. Don't stay away because of the topic - you'll be missing out.
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5ducksfans avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 92 more book reviews
There's really not much to say, except this book is heartbreaking and honest. I actually read the last chapter twice because it felt like the end came too fast and sudden. I highly recommend this book.
annerszz101 avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 31 more book reviews
Once I got to about chapter 36, I started crying.

Tessa is a strong girl, she really is. She has leukemia, but she doesn't let that get to her. Most teenagers with cancer, or anyone with cancer, tend to be strong or tend to be really emotional. Tessa... she makes a list of things she wants to do before she dies. She writes things on her wall.

The book begins with her writing on her wall that before she dies she wants to have sex with a boy.

She has a best friend named Zoey, who is a party girl pretty much.
Later on, Tessa meets Adam from next door, & they fall in love.

I LOVED this book. It made me cry & it made me laugh, and in the end it made me realize that people with cancer really do have to be strong.. not only for themselves but for the people that care about them the most
berd avatar reviewed Before I Die on + 214 more book reviews
I attempted to read this book 3 times. While I'm glad I finally finished it, I never felt completely enamored with it. Obviously the subject matter was rather depressing, but the author's wording made the book tough to force myself through & I found myself just wanting it to be over.