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BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham Kirkus Star

BEFORE I DIE

By Jenny Downham

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-385-75155-1
Publisher: David Fickling/Random

With only months left to live, 16-year-old Tessa makes a list of things she must experience: sex, petty crime, fame, drugs and true love. Downham’s wrenching work features a girl desperate for a few thrilling moments before leukemia takes her away. Although Tessa remains ardently committed to her list, both she and the reader find comfort in the quiet resonance of the natural world. Tessa’s soul mate, Adam, gardens next door; a bird benignly rots in grass; psychedelic mushrooms provide escape; an apple tree brings comfort; and her best friend, Zoey, ripens in the final months of pregnancy. Downham’s lithe, facile writing creates a chiaroscuro of life and death, of organic growth and decay. Although Tessa begins to see herself within the natural continuum, she still feels furious with her lot. She lashes out and behaves cruelly at times, making her believable to teen readers. Because her experience feels so palpable, readers will believe that the novel’s final pages might offer a crystalline vision of death. Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent. (Fiction. YA)