Before I Die

Jenny Downham, Author, Charlotte Parry, Read by , read by Charlotte Parry. Listening Library $34 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7393-6288-4

Parry delivers a genuine, unflinching performance as Tessa, a terminally ill British teenager determined to cram all the living she can into her final days. Tessa’s ultimate to-do list includes more acts of abandon than accomplishments: having sex, doing something illegal and falling in love. But Parry’s skillful narration combined with debut novelist Downham’s honest and direct writing style keep this from becoming a hokey caper or melodramatic “after-school special” listening experience. Parry laudably colors her reading with the broad range of raw emotion that Tessa experiences, from rage and fear to even a few moments of euphoria. She captures an authentic dynamic among the people in Tessa’s inner circle, including her anxious, heartbroken father, exuberant best friend and steadfast, Scottish-sounding boyfriend. Most memorably, listeners hear Tessa’s unspoken words—snippets of inner monologues, dreams and flashes of memories that drift into her fading consciousness as she lays dying. Strains of mournful, soulful music close the program; the result is both wrenching and cleansing. Ages 14-up. Simultaneous release with the Random/Fickling hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 6). (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 10/29/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Audio
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-385-61353-8
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