My reading tips this week is a book I read some time ago, but that I’ve kept thinking about a lot since; the beautiful, gripping, sad and lovely Before I Die by Jenny Downham. This book is both heart-breaking and hopeful at the same time, with a cute love story.
Before I Die is the story about 16-year-old Tessa who is dying of leukemia. In her struggle to come to terms with her fate, she creates a bucket list of the things she want to experience before dying. The list of things Tessa wants to experience is a mix of really silly ones (like committing a crime and becoming famous) and more desirable things (like experiencing love and not limiting yourself but forcing yourself to say yes to anything for a whole day). It’s this list and the way Tessa follows it, that makes this book so unique and something else than just a sad book about a dying teenage girl.
At first I hoped that the title would not turn out to be true and that there would come an unexpected twist to the story, but that hope was effectively dashed only a few pages in to the book. But despite the title, this is not really a book about death, but about life and about living your life to the fullest.
There were so many things about this book that I loved, like the writing, which always had a touch of humor, the cute love story, and Tessa’s family. Jenny Downham does a wonderful job of bringing your emotions to the surface, without making the story melodramatic in any way. I especially loved Tessa’s dad, he was just amazing, sweet and loving, even though Tessa most of the time treated him like crap. I didn’t always like Tessa herself though. She was a bit too selfish at times (which I guess could be understandable under the circumstances, but some of the things she did really made me cringe). But still, you want her to have everything she’s being denied because of her leukemia. Especially love. So when she gets it, it totally breaks your heart.
Overall, this is a heartbreaking book in the best possible way. It's beautiful, gripping, sad and at the same time hopeful. It’s one of those books that will stay with you and make you think about your own choices and the way you live your own life.
Find out more about Before I Die and the author here: Jenny Downham