Before I Die, By Jenny Downham

Click to follow

Sixteen-year-old Tessa has leukaemia and only months to live. Her defiant response is to make a list of 10 things to do before she dies – some easy of accomplishment, such as having sex and taking drugs; others more difficult, such as falling in love and seeing her parents get back together. This novel also details her changing relationships with her family, her best friend and the boyfriend she acquires in the nick of time. The style is plain and direct – not subtle, but effective, like Jacqueline Wilson for slightly older readers. It brings home the utter arbitrariness and non-negotiability of death; at the same time, it reawakens the reader to the nowness of life. Tessa is sometimes unsympathetic, taking pleasure in the discomfiture her illness causes – but that, unfortunately, is what we are like when we're teenagers and it makes her dying ordeal more believable than would a display of saintliness.

This is a marvellous novel for teens, but just as much of a tear-jerker for adults too. Particularly those with teenage children.