BEFORE I DIE: YOU WILL CRY

Debut of Jenny Downham (I know, I’m suuuupppper late to read this one)

Stars
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Nope. It’s a stand alone.
Publisher: April, 29th, 2010 David Fickling Books
Author: Jenny Downham

Recommended Read?: It’s really powerful, really touching, and not for those who can’t take the death of a character.

FIRST IMPRESSION:
I could tell right away the story has a very strong voice and even though all my friends said they cried when they read it, I wasn’t going to. I knew what to expect. It was going to be okay.

THE PLOT:
We’ve all heard it before: dying person has a bucket list. But the way Downham goes about the list is so … painfully beautiful and real that you forget about all the other stories out there. Tessa’s tale is so engaging, so enduring, that it’s ridiculously hard to put the book down and even harder to stop thinking about once you’re done.

I’ve heard a lot of negativity about how obsessed Tessa is with sex at the start (one reviewer said something like “she’s just sixteen, come on!”). That’s ridiculous. She’s a teen — plenty of teens think about sex. Particularly sixteen-year-olds and her age really means nothing. She’s going to die, she’ll never get older, so how can you blame her for thinking about sex? If I were a dying and sixteen, I’d totally want to have sex before I was gone.

THE CHARACTERS:
TESSA the main character is so unique, so conflicted, so amazing that I fell in love with her myself. She faces such a difficult fate and goes through so many emotional situations, but she still keeps moving forward. I loved how she obsessed over numbers — counting days, things she saw, numbering her list, it was all so interesting.

ZOEY is the best friend, and I love her, too. My feelings for her were like a roller coster, one minute they were high in an ‘I-totally-love-this-girl’ way and then the next they were shooting down in an ‘I-hate-her-so-much’ fashion.

ADAM is the love interest, and a very special one at that. He has his own hard time dealing with his life, but he still can’t keep away from Tessa, even though he knows it can’t end well.

CAL is the little brother. Conflicted, adorable, and a magic lover — what’s not to like? Plus, I have a soft spot of little brothers (even though they’re all over the place in YA).

The characters were what really made the story a tragedy. Even though I knew it couldn’t end well, I couldn’t help but love each of them. Which really just made it harder in the end.

THE ROMANCE:
I loved this part of the story. How unexpected it was for them. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sucker for star crossed lovers, and you really can’t get any more star crossed then a dying girl and a healthy boy. There was real tension in this subplot, real emotions, and really beautiful moments.

THE WRITING
The writing is amazing. Downham really paints a vivid picture of life for Tessa and doesn’t shy away from the gritty and horrible parts of her sickness and about life (like, #1 on Tessa’s list: sex). She focuses on everything around Tessa, bugs, birds, weird extra, little, things you’d never really think about and it just makes it all so real. The end of the book is where her talent really shines. The way she captures Tessa’s declining health is perfect. I wasn’t able to stop reading.

Usually, near the end of the book, I’ll glance at the page number a lot to know how many pages are left. That way I can sort of gage what will happen next (this subplot will be wrapping up, this question should be answered soon, etc) but with this book I wasn’t. I just focused on the words, turning the page, and hoping it wouldn’t end. I didn’t want Tesa to leave.

CONCLUSION:
I cried. By around page 280, there were tears in my eyes. They stayed until the end. I feel a tingle in my eyes when I think about the book. I can honestly only think of one other book that made me cry (LOVELY BONES) and it was just a few tears. This book … there were a lot more than just a few.

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