Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Tessa is a sixteen year old girl who has been fighting off cancer for the past four years and now the end is nigh, there is nothing more they can do for her. Apparently the world is done with her...but she's not done with the world. There's still so much she wants to do. She wants her parent's back together, she wishes to be famous...but most of all she yearns for someone to love.

This is a unique book, narrated by Tessa, not yet a ghost but not completely living shut up in the solitude of her room scrawling her list on her wall. Jenny Downham takes the reader through the stages of grief through not only Tessa who grieves for the life she'll never have but also through the other characters who have taken the journey of terminal illness with Tessa but who can not hold her hand and accompany her into the next world. There's her heartbroken, loving father who is all about the denial, he needs to believe their is still hope, he needs to believe that he can save his baby girl. There's Cal, Tessa's little brother who appears flippant about the fact his older sister is dying but deep down can't deal with the reality of Tessa not existing. There's a sweet boy next door, Adam who when he first meets Tessa is ignorant of her illness and looks at her as if she is just an ordinary girl, not a girl who could very well collapse at any moment. As the story progresses, Adam gives her the gift she's so desperately been wanting: love. Zoey, Tessa's best friend goes through highs and lows of cheerfully helping Tessa achieve her list's goals and then being angry with her for being absorbed with her own problems. Tessa herself goes through periods of not wanting pity, being violently angry, rebelling and self-pity.

I found Tessa's story to be poignantly realistic, the emotions heartbreaking. I couldn't stop crying throughout this book, there is no moments of contrieved statements by Tessa about accepting her fate it is just beautifully honest about a life cut short too soon.

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