Monday, August 25, 2008
BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham
BEFORE I DIE is the emotional story of Tessa, a sixteen year old facing cancer and the final months of her life. Author Jenny Downham captures the frustration, fear, anger, and determination of Tessa's experience.
It has been four long years of treatments, transfusions, and promising remissions, but now the end is near. How does Tessa want to live her last months? She decides to make a list of the ten things she wants to do before she dies. Number 1 on the list is sex. With the help of her older friend Zoey she crosses off number 1 and moves on to the rest of the list.
Life has become a roller-coaster of emotions, not only for Tessa, but also for her family and friends. Since her diagnosis, her father has dedicated his life to her care. It takes all his energy to keep track of treatment schedules, medications, and online research for possible new cures. Tessa's new approach to "living" her final days has him anxious and worried. Each new adventure on her list leaves her weaker, and her recovery time lengthens. But even after setbacks, Tessa is determined to experience as much as possible.
Although some of the items on her list seem fool-hardy at best, Tessa learns much about the truth of life. Her wreckless early sexual encounter is followed by a later relationship that allows her to experience true love and total commitment. She is able to understand and appreciate all that has been special about her short life.
Readers will be quickly drawn into Tessa's world. They may shake their heads at some of her choices, but they will also recognize what drives her to live as much as she can. Anyone who tries to imagine how they would spend their remaining days, if those days were numbered, will not judge Tessa, but most likely admire her strength and courage. I know I certainly did.