Before I Die

by Jenny Downham

Random House Children's Books | May 26, 2009 | Trade Paperback

Before I Die is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 10.
For the many readers who love The Fault in Our Stars, this is the story of a girl who is determined to live, love, and to write her own ending before her time is finally up.

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, and drugs with excruciating side effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her 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, and her new boyfriend, are all painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time runs out.

A Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year
A
Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Book Sense Children’s Pick
A
Kirkus Reviews Editors’ Choice
A
Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author
An ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

The newly released feature film Now Is Good, starring Dakota Fanning, is based on Jenny Downham's intensely moving novel.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 8 × 5.19 × 0.69 in

Published: May 26, 2009

Publisher: Random House Children's Books

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385751834

ISBN - 13: 9780385751834

Appropriate for ages: 13 - 17

save 5%

  • In stock online
$10.99 list price

$10.43 ea online

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Check store inventory (prices may vary)

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best book I've ever read This book gave me a new appretiation for life, definity a must read. Its raw characters allow you to relate and feel the same emotions
Date published: 2015-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bittersweet This book was absolutely breathtaking! If you have the chance to get your hands on it, I highly suggest reading it. It is so inspirational and shows you the rawness of what it is like to live knowing that you could possibly die.
Date published: 2013-06-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Emotional This was a very touching book, I found a new outlook on life that you should never stop living and savor every second that you receive.
Date published: 2012-03-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Such a good book! Quite the page-turner, I didn't want to stop reading it, It's not very long, but you learn a lot through out the book, you learn just how valuable life really is, and it was a sweet book :) very touching, but interesting, I would of liked to hear a little about the other characters at the end, but that's about it!
Date published: 2012-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from TEARFUL i could not put this book down. without having the experience of having someone i love die in front of me, Downham somehow found a way to make me feel and react the same as if i did have someone dying.
Date published: 2011-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Truly Heartfelt Sixteen-year-old Tessa has been diagnosed with cancer and its terminal-she IS going to die. Tessa decides to make a list of all the things that she wants to experience and do before her final day comes and first on her list is: sex!! As the story proceeds, Tessa continues to work off her list one by one interspersed with visits to doctor’s offices, hospital stays for transfusions and other medical procedures. Keeping true to her list is her main priority. Her younger brother Cal can be a pain in the butt but deep down he loves his sister, and Zoey, Tessa’s zany friend is a weird one for sure. Unfortunately, her parents are divorced but Tessa lives with her Dad who attends all her appointments with her and holds her hand during yet another lumbar puncture, a very painful procedure. Her mother is somewhat distant and Tessa doesn’t ever remember her mother telling her that she loves her. In the mix she finds a love truer than she ever thought possible but at the same time realizes that it’s not always easy getting what you want and that what you want isn’t always what you need. By the end of the book I was literally bawling my eyes out. Her death was written beautifully but I was so emotionally involved in the story that I felt I was standing by the side of all the family members as she took her last breath. The book was uplifting and not written at all in a sad, cold, detached way that many novels about death are written, but it was rather life-affirming and happy if that’s possible to believe. As with any death, it is painful, but that of a child or teenager is even more so. Great read!!
Date published: 2011-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from really packs a punch Sixteen year old, Tessa, is dying. She’s been sick with leukemia since she was 12, but there’s nothing more they can do for her. When Jenny Downham’s moving novel Before I Die opens, Tessa has decided to make a list of all the things she wants to do before she leaves the earth. Right off the top, she wants to have sex. Tessa is a believable character, sullen and bitchy one minute and hopeful and loving the next. She lives with her dad and younger brother, Cal. Her mother left the family to follow another man to Scotland. The relationship didn’t work out and she’s in the neighbourhood, but Tessa’s care is really left to her father, who has given up work to stay homelook after Tessa. Before I Die is a book about living the best way you can with the time you have. There’s a lesson in there for all of us. When Tessa meets Adam, the boy next door, her world starts to expand. When her best friend, Zoey, finds herself pregnant, Tessa has something to look forward to. Ultimately, though, this is a novel about dying and the last twenty pages or so are among the most moving I have ever read.
Date published: 2011-01-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Read this book before you die This is a book about a girl named Tessa, who is terminally ill with Cancer. Knowing she is going to die, she creates a list of 10 things that she will do before she dies. This story really makes you appreciate life and the small things that come with it. It is a potential tear jerker and has an ending that will leave you thinking about it for a while. Definately worth the read but I picked this one up at the library rather than buying it which i'm glad I did. An inspirational read, nonetheless.
Date published: 2010-05-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great read, very sad!! This book was a little hard to get started on, but once you get into it you wont be able to put it down. The ending is eneviatble, but this book just keeps you hoping. Was one of the saddest books ive ever read :'(
Date published: 2009-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This book was so well written! It was funny and sad and happy. It makes you think about what you would do if you only had a few months to live. And how you would live you final moments. Tessa finds love in the book, and it just makes it more sad cause she is dying, Great read for everyone! It was one of my staff picks! :)
Date published: 2008-10-02

– More About This Product –

Before I Die

Before I Die

by Jenny Downham

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 8 × 5.19 × 0.69 in

Published: May 26, 2009

Publisher: Random House Children's Books

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385751834

ISBN - 13: 9780385751834

About the Book

"This intensely moving story is now available in paperback.
"Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, and drugs with excruciating side effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her 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, and her new boyfriend, are all painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out.
"A "Publishers Weekly "Best Children's Book of the Year
A "Booklist "Editors' Choice
A Book Sense Children's Pick
A "Kirkus Reviews "Editors' Choice
A "Publishers Weekly "Flying Start Author
An ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults"

Read from the Book

I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger. Whenever I wanted, I could get him out and he’d look at me the way boys do in films, as if I’m beautiful. He wouldn’t speak much, but he’d be breathing hard as he took off his leather jacket and unbuckled his jeans. He’d wear white pants and he’d be so gorgeous I’d almost faint. He’d take my clothes off too. He’d whisper, ‘Tessa, I love you. I really bloody love you. You’re beautiful’ – exactly those words – as he undressed me.I sit up and switch on the bedside light. There’s a pen, but no paper, so on the wall behind me I write, I want to feel the weight of a boy on top of me. Then I lie back down and look out at the sky. It’s gone a funny colour – red and charcoal all at once, like the day is bleeding out.I can smell sausages. Saturday night is always sausages. There’ll be mash and cabbage and onion gravy too. Dad’ll have the lottery ticket and Cal will have chosen the numbers and they’ll sit in front of the TV and eat dinner from trays on their laps. They’ll watch The X Factor, then they’ll watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? After that, Cal will have a bath and go to bed and Dad’ll drink beer and smoke until it’s late enough for him to sleep.He came up to see me earlier. He walked over to the window and opened the curtains. ‘Look at that!’ he said as light flooded the room. There was the afternoon, the tops of the trees, the sky. He stood silhouetted against the window, his hands on his hips. He
read more read less

From the Publisher

For the many readers who love The Fault in Our Stars, this is the story of a girl who is determined to live, love, and to write her own ending before her time is finally up.

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, and drugs with excruciating side effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her 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, and her new boyfriend, are all painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time runs out.

A Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year
A
Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Book Sense Children’s Pick
A
Kirkus Reviews Editors’ Choice
A
Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author
An ALA-YALSA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

The newly released feature film Now Is Good, starring Dakota Fanning, is based on Jenny Downham's intensely moving novel.

From the Jacket

Review, NYTBR, October 14, 2007:
"This may sound too depressing for words, but it is only one indication of the inspired originality of Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, that the reader can finish its last pages feeling thrillingly alive ... I don't care how old you are. This book will not leave you."
—John Burnham Schwartz

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007
"Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent."

Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly, August 6, 2007
"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."

Review, Entertainment Weekly, September 21, 2007
"Bound For Glory: This fall, five young authors deliver breakout books packed with razor-sharp writing."

Review, Entertainment Weekly, September 28, 2007
"In luminous prose that rings completely true, Downham earns every tear she wrings from her readers. I trust there will be many of them—many readers, and of course, many tears. A-"


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

This is Jenny Downham’s debut novel. She lives in England.

Editorial Reviews

Review, NYTBR, October 14, 2007:
"This may sound too depressing for words, but it is only one indication of the inspired originality of Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, that the reader can finish its last pages feeling thrillingly alive ... I don't care how old you are. This book will not leave you."
—John Burnham Schwartz

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007
"Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent."

Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly, August 6, 2007
"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."

Review, Entertainment Weekly, September 21, 2007
"Bound For Glory: This fall, five young authors deliver breakout books packed with razor-sharp writing."

Review, Entertainment Weekly, September 28, 2007
"In luminous prose that rings completely true, Downham earns every tear she wrings from her readers. I trust there will be many of them—many readers, and of course, many tears. A-"


From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS...

1. Describe Tessa’s relationship with her father. How has this relationship been shaped by Tessa’s illness? Debate whether Cal, Tessa’s younger brother, feels neglected by his father. Discuss Tessa’s relationship with her mother. Why did she leave home? When does Tessa miss her mother the most?
2. Discuss the true qualities of a friend. Which of these qualities best describes Tessa and Zoey’s friendship? What does Zoey offer Tessa that her father cannot give? Why does Tessa’s father call Zoey when Tessa won’t get out of bed? Cal hates Zoey. How does Tessa explain her friendship with Zoey to her little brother?
3. Tessa’s father is frustrated when she becomes withdrawn. He says, “If you won’t talk about it, how can I help?” (p. 2) How does this withdrawal represent the first stage of grief? Why is talking about feelings always better than keeping them to yourself?
4. Discuss why Tessa doesn’t want to return to school. She says that Zoey is the only person at school that isn’t afraid of her illness. Explain how difficult it is for teenagers to deal with the terminal illness of a classmate. What might Zoey say to other students that would help them know how to interact with Tessa?
5. Tessa writes her private thoughts on the wall beside her bed. Why does she let Zoey read what she has written?
6. Zoey tells Tessa that it’s all right to be afraid. How does Tessa reveal her fear? How does she use her hat to hide her fear? Discuss how Cal, Adam and Tessa’s father express their fear.
7. How is Tessa’s list a form of bargaining and acceptance? At what point in the novel does Tessa accept the fact that she is dying? Explain how her list helps her “get on with living.” Which item on her list is the most dangerous? Why does doing illegal things like shoplifting and driving without a license give Tessa a thrill?
8. Tessa’s father wants to know the things on her list. He says, “I need to know about it, not because I want to stop you, but because I want to keep you safe.” (p. 80) Discuss how Tessa reacts to her father when he asks to see the list.
9. Discuss the conversation between Tessa and her father after she is caught shoplifting. Why does he think anger is taking her over?
10. How is Tessa’s list confusing to her father? Explain how Tessa’s list is self-centered. Her mum tells her, “You have to think about the people who love you.” (p. 170) At what point does Tessa begin to think about Cal and her father? Explain why Tessa’s mother speaks in past tense when she says, “we loved you.” Why is it unrealistic for Tessa to think that she can rekindle her parents’ relationship?
11. Why do you think sex is number one on Tessa’s list of things she wants to do before she dies? Tessa worries about being a “slag” if she has sex with someone that she doesn’t know. Explain Zoey’s reaction to Tessa’s thoughts.
12. Tessa says that walking up the stairs behind a boy she doesn’t know reminds her of hospital corridors. What do the stairs and the corridors symbolize?
13. Discuss the moments in the novel that Tessa is most depressed. Who helps her deal with her depression?
14. Why does Zoey suspect that Tessa is in love with Adam? What does Zoey mean when she says, “I thought you understood the rules! Never let a bloke into your heart–it’s fatal”? (p. 88) Why is Adam different than Zoey? Discuss what Adam means when he says, “I can’t give you what you want.” (p. 117) What does he ultimately give her? What does she offer him?
15. Tessa asks the home health care nurse if she believes in God. What is the significance of this inquiry? Tessa tells the nurse that she doesn’t believe in heaven. Discuss the nurse’s reaction to Tessa’s confession. Why does the nurse think a support group might be helpful to Tessa? How does Tessa’s list take the place of a support group?
16. How does Tessa’s dad react when he finds out Zoey wants to terminate her pregnancy? Discuss how his opinion is related to Tessa’s terminal illness.
17. Sorrow, loneliness, anxiety, and guilt are emotions associated with grief. How does each of the characters in the novel deal with these emotions?



ABOUT THIS BOOK...

Seventeen-year-old Tessa struggles to work through a list of things she wants to do before she dies as her battle with leukemia comes to an end.

Seventeen-year-old Tessa was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 12. That was the same year that her mother left home. Now, Tessa is in the finally stages of her illness, and there are a list of things that she wants to do before she dies. This list confuses her father, who has quit his job to take care of her, but he ultimately understands that the list helps her focus on life rather than death. Zoey, Tessa’s best friend, is by her side as she moves down the list. There are many symbolic relationships and events that help Tessa face her untimely death. Among them are Adam, a neighbor who is dealing with his own loss, but gives Tessa the romance that she is seeking; her mother’s brief reappearance in her life; and, a return to a favorite family vacation spot. 

BEFORE READING THE BOOK
Discuss the five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Write a letter from the point of view of a dying person that expresses one of these stages of grief.


ABOUT THIS AUTHOR...

Jenny Downham trained as an actor and worked in alternative theatre before starting to write. She lives in London.

Appropriate for ages: 13 - 17