Friday, 10 April 2009

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Read: August 2007

Okay so picture this. It is a sunny Wednesday afternoon and it is my birthday. I am sitting at the till in a deserted shop with silent tears running down my cheeks as I desperately attempt to finish this book before I go off on holiday for a week. I should probably add that I am a rapidly balding, newly twenty-five year old man!

But enough about my biography, I should be talking about this fine book. Like The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas and The Book Thief this is a teenage book which would be equally comfortable in adult sections. The plot follows the last year in the life of sixteen year old cancer victim Tessa as she seeks to accomplish a list of life experiences before she dies. First on the list is sex. Then there are drugs and breaking the law and spending a day saying yes to everything and, of course, becoming famous. With the help of her only friend Zoey, and a neighbour named Adam, Tessa sets out on a classic coming of age story, the tragedy being that she never will (come of age).

I was particularly impressed with the ability of the author to get inside Tessa’s head, to investigate the unexpected spontaneity of the mind and there are some fabulous feats of description. It is moving without ever becoming morose or self indulgent and it is such a pleasure to see children’s fiction able to tackle such complex issues.

This is a book for a rainy afternoon’s reading and we have had plenty of those recently! Buy this book, I guarantee you will enjoy it.

7 out of 10

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