Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book-Crush Tuesday: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

(Yes, I know this should be Book-Crush Wednesday. But I want to start doing Road-Trip Wednesday as part of my blog makeover, so I had to push some things around. Don't judge me.)

Every so often, there's a book that punches you in the gut with its emotional writing. It's so true, so raw, so real, that you can't help but love.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham is undoubtedly one of those books.

Before I Die is the story of 17-year-old Tessa, a terminally ill cancer patient who creates a bucket list, knowing she has months, if that, left to live. Topping her list? Sex. Also on her list? Drugs, shoplifting, typical teenaged rebellion. But as Tessa branches out into her world and experiences life, truly experiences it for the first time, her list evolves and becomes deeper: fall in love. Get married. And as time runs out, she adds small things to her list, things that tear your heart apart.

This book killed me. It was beautiful and difficult to read and powerful. There are sex scenes, but they are so well-written and justified, and the various scenes in the book are very different from each other (when you pick up the book, hopefully you'll understand why).

But the ending is the most amazing part. Downham is able to capture the sheer emotion of what happens to Tessa in this truthful, incredible way. You not only feel that you are there, you feel as if you are experiencing it, too. You feel as if this must be what it feels like to go through what Tessa is going through. It's one of the best examples of strong emotional writing I've ever read.

This book has stuck with me, over a month after I read it. It's one of the best books I've read all year. British author Jenny Downham seems to capture the emotions of this moment perfectly. Though I know she's never been through exactly what Tessa went through, I can't imagine how she could have possibly written with such truth and beauty. (Her second novel, You Against Me, is also fantastic.)

Have your tissues handy. But don't skip this one.

Of course, they've made this into a movie with a semi-lame title, Now Is Good. It stars Dakota Fanning (Obvs.) and comes out next year.


  1. Aaaand I'm sold. I've seen so much buzz for this book!! I'm going to download it for my vacation next week!

  2. I tried to put this on hold after you told me about it, but I owe too many library fines and they wouldn't let me. :-( I need to go get it. (And pay my fines)


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