Friday, May 23, 2008

Before I Die...

I am not one for sad, depressing books, but Before I Die by Jenny Downham is an exception. I could barely put it down. Tessa Scott is a normal teenager. She worries about her looks, if the guy next door likes her and her best friend being a slut. What makes Tessa different, is that she's been living with cancer for 4 years and now is dying from it. Tessa made a list of ten things, actions, experiences, to do before she dies. With the help of her best friend Zoey, Tessa starts on the "Before I Die" list. Number one on the list is sex. Tessa's first sexual encounter is funny, sad and realistic. It is definitely not at all what she expected. She goes on to break the law, try drugs, say yes to everything, drive, becomes famous, get her parents back together and fall in love. When you're dying, what do you have to lose?

The depiction of Tessa and her family has a very realistic feel. Her mother keeps her distance, not knowing how to deal with Tessa's illness and death. Tessa's father had to give up his job and takes care of Tessa full time. Tessa's younger brother Cal wants a normal life, is angry that Tessa gets so much attention, but loves his sister and is scared of her dying. His keep out death signs are funny and heartbreaking.

I was laughing one page and crying the next. There are as many funny moments as sad. As a librarian, I read a lot of books, but Before I Die is in my top twenties. It is a book that I'll read over and over. If you like these sad, depressing, sometimes funny and engaging stories; I recommend 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss, Deadline by Chris Crutcher and Would You by Marthe Jocelyn.

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