Before I Die

Jenny Downham, Author . Random/Fickling $18.99 (326p) ISBN 978-0-385-75158-2

The eloquent dying teen can seem a staple of the YA novel, but this British debut completely breaks the mold.Downham holds nothing back in her wrenching and exceptionally vibrant story about a 16-year-old girl with leukemia determined to do 10 things before her imminent death (have sex, commit a crime, fall in love); although her rage feels palpable, she has decided to spend her remaining time living instead of dying. The chronicling of Tessa's slow decline has the immediacy of an audio journal—painful, honest first-person descriptions almost trap the audience inside Tessa's head. She alternates erratically but realistically between emotions, and the effect is staggering. One scene, for example, begins with Tessa's younger brother burying a dead bird, the boy next door helping him in an effort to impress Tessa: at first Tessa is touched, then “There's earth on my head. I'm cold.... I try and focus on good things, but it's so hard to scramble out.” Although the internal monologues wield undeniable power, some of the most dramatic scenes in the book involve Tessa's friends and familyher father's efforts to remain strong despite grief; her boyfriend's love for her; her younger brother's inability to grasp the gravity of his sister's condition (after a fight he hisses, “I hope you die while I'm at school! And I hope it bloody hurts”). Downham's writing is shockingly straightforward, and she cushions nothing for readers. In laying out so bald a story she evokes an extraordinary range of emotions, exorcised in a fiercely cathartic ending. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/06/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-385-65401-2
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-385-61353-8
Hardcover - 326 pages - 978-0-385-75155-1
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-0-7393-6291-4
Open Ebook - 213 pages - 978-0-375-84937-4
Paperback - 319 pages - 978-957-33-2575-8
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-6290-7
Hardcover - 401 pages - 978-1-4104-0776-4
Paperback - 326 pages - 978-0-385-75183-4
Compact Disc - 6 pages - 978-0-7393-6288-4
Hardcover - 448 pages - 978-89-546-1951-6
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4070-4227-5
Prebound-Glued - 326 pages - 978-1-61383-808-2
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