Before I Die - Jenny Downham
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Age Level: 12+
Reader’s Annotation: Tessa has leukemia and is going die, but she’s not going down without a fight. In her final months she compiles a “to-do” list and is determined to finish everything on it.
Summary: Tessa has terminal cancer and has decided to go home and enjoy the life she has left to her. With this in mind she creates a to-do list that includes everything from sex to doing drugs. This seems like a good plan, until her list starts to alienate her family and friends. And how exactly does one go about getting the things they want without letting everyone know they’re dying? Tessa’s story is heartbreaking and readers will be unable to finish in one sitting, even though they would like to. The struggle to stay upbeat and alive while knocking on death’s door is becoming increasingly popular in the young adult field, but Downham strikes true with this text and readers are rewarded with a powerful novel about living the life that is given to you.
Evaluation: A heartbreaking novel that teaches just how precious life is. A great read for tweens and teens who sometimes need reminders about the value of life. Final chapter is heart-rending.
Booktalk Ideas: What would you do if you knew you were going to die?
Challenges: Tessa does all the “bad things” on her list: drugs, drinking and sex.
Selection: I wanted to see a strong teen struggling with knowledge of her death.