Before I Die

Downham, Jenny

Paperback - 2009
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Before I Die
A terminally ill teenaged girl makes and carries out a list of things to do before she dies.

Publisher: Oxford : New York : D.Fickling Books, 2009
Edition: 1st trade pbk. ed
ISBN: 9780385751834
Branch Call Number: FIC D
Characteristics: 326 p. ; 21 cm.


From the critics

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Sep 24, 2014

With her body failing, but her determination to live life to the very end growing, this book tells the story of what it is like to face up to dying, and dying young, and to have family and friends around who knows you are dying, and who wants to protect you, but also let you live a little outside the normal constraints of a typical teenager.

Nov 06, 2013
  • piggypoo rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

I really hate this. it was boring and i cried in the end. Lots of stuff that is innapropiate for younger people

Jun 05, 2013
  • Taku rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Tessa is 16 and dying of cancer. She knows that she has only months to live and she creates a list of things she wants to experience before she dies: having sex, trying drugs and falling in love being just three of them. This is not your usual teen lit fare. It is a very moving book that feels like a realistic account of a teenager struggling to come to terms with the fact that her life will be over almost before it's begun. Sometimes Tessa is self-pitying, angry or apathetic - but she is also real and brave and you care about her.

This is a quick book to read - it took me two days only. It's fairly predictable and aside from Tessa, the characters are pretty sketchy. However its simplicity also makes it feel more genuine, as if it really was penned by a 16 year old. It makes you think about and appreciate your own friends, your family - your very life.

From a parent's' point of view - you need to be aware that the book might not be suitable for younger children as it openly talks about making love, drug use etc.

Feb 21, 2013
  • kktrotter rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

FIRST IMPRESSION: The story has a very strong voice and even though all my friends said they cried when they read it, I wasn't going to. I knew what to expect. It was going to be okay. THE PLOT: We've all heard it before: dying person has a bucket list. But the way Downham goes about the list is so ... painfully beautiful that you forget about all the other stories out there. Tessa's tale is so engaging, so enduring, that it's ridiculously hard to put the book down and even harder to stop thinking about once you're done. THE CHARACTERS: TESSA the main character is so unique, so conflicted, so amazing that I fell in love with her myself. She faces such a difficult fate and goes through so many emotional situations, but she still keeps moving forward. I loved how she obsessed over numbers -- counting days, things she saw, numbering her list, it was all so interesting. ZOEY is the best friend, and I love her, too. My feelings for her were like a roller coster, one minute they were high in an 'I-totally-love-this-girl' way and then the next they were shooting down in an 'I-hate-her-so-much' fashion. ADAM is the love interest, and a very special one at that. He has his own hard time dealing with his life, but he still can't keep away from Tessa, even though he knows it can't end well. Through the story, I grew to love him. CAL is the little brother. Conflicted, adorable, and a magic lover -- what's not to like? The characters were what really made the story a tragedy. Even though I knew it couldn't end well, I couldn't help but love each of them. Which really just made it harder in the end. THE ROMANCE: I loved this part of the story. How unexpected it was for them. I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for star crossed lovers, and you really can't get any more star crossed then a dying girl and a healthy boy. There was real tension in this subplot, real emotions, and really beautiful moments. THE WRITING The writing is amazing. Downham really paints a vivid picture of life for Tessa and doesn't shy away from the gritty and horrible parts of her sickness. She focuses on everything around Tessa, bugs, birds, weird extra, little, things you'd never really think about and it just makes it all so real. The end of the book is where her talent really shines. The way she captures Tessa's declining health is perfect. I wasn't able to stop reading. Usually, near the end of the book, I'll glance at the page number a lot to know how many pages are left. That way I can sort of gage what will happen next (this subplot will be wrapping up, this question should be answered soon, etc) but with this book I wasn't. I just focused on the words, turning the page, and hoping it wouldn't end. CONCLUSION: I cried. By around page 280, there were tears in my eyes. They stayed until the end. I feel a burn in my eyes when I think about the book. I can honestly only think of one other book that made me cry (LOVELY BONES) and it was just a few tears. This book ... there were a lot more than just a few.

Aug 14, 2012
  • mischief_managed rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This book left me tingling. It was so deep and really made you think about death and it's affect on people. I've never read a book quite like this before and I would suggest it to anyone.

Jun 21, 2012
  • angeye87 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

It started slow, and was very hard for me to get into at first. However, it did pick up and turned out to be a pretty good book. I've read a lot of comments where people are judging it based on her list. But you have to keep in mind that she's only a kid. I'm sure at that age your list would probably be similar, because those are the things you think about at that age. If you were dying you'd be acting out too.

Mar 04, 2012
  • Haven04 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

i thought the book was OK :)

Dec 13, 2011
  • Ariel421 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I loved this book! Itès about a young woman who finds out she has cancer and she makes a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies. The movie based on this book is called Now Is Good and will be starring Dakota Fanning!

Nov 24, 2011
  • fearlessforever rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

This book was far from what I expected it to be about, i could tell just from the first few pages that i read....not what I expected at all, to be honest it was fairly disappointing...

Aug 08, 2011
  • book_worm27 rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

didnt really like this book i just stopped in the middle

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Add Age Suitability

Jun 05, 2013
  • Taku rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Taku thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Sep 25, 2012

District2Fan thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jun 16, 2011
  • KKPGIRL rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

KKPGIRL thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Sep 28, 2010

ArchiBrarian thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Nov 06, 2013
  • piggypoo rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Frightening or Intense Scenes: incredibly emotional at times

Nov 06, 2013
  • piggypoo rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Sexual Content: lots

Aug 14, 2012
  • mischief_managed rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Sexual Content: The girl has sex a couple of times.


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Nov 10, 2008
  • bzmum rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Quick, easy read. Useful reminder to live life to the fullest.


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Nov 06, 2013
  • piggypoo rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

I love her.

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Before I Die
Downham, Jenny
Before I Die

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