Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her Ten Things To Do Before I Die list. And Number One is sex. Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body ...
Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her Ten Things To Do Before I Die list. And Number One is sex. Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out. "Before I Die" is a brilliantly-crafted novel, heartbreaking yet astonishingly life-affirming. It will take you to the very edge.
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Publishers Weekly, 2007-08-06 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 family?her 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.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2007-10-29 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.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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