Friday, November 9, 2012

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die, Jenny Downham, David Fickling Books 2007, 327 pgs.

My mom seems to think that I spend all my time reading, and none of it paying attention to my son. That's entirely not true. I however, can see how she would think that. Especially after she walks in the house this afternoon to catch me finishing up this book with tears glistening in my eyes, and my son running amok in the backyard. In my defense I spent the whole day with Ry and I was in the backyard with him physically. I guess she has all the luck to decide to come over right when I finally found the time and motivation to finish the last hundred or so pages of the book. 

Every review I had read before finally picking up this book led me to believe that it would be an emotionally taxing roller coaster. And I'll tell you now, I was right. I was excited when the UPS man brought this book yesterday. It's not very often that I make the decision to buy a book anymore. Budgeting is a terrible thing sometimes. Truthfully though, it was a little hard to get through the first 200 pages. The story is about Tessa, she is a 16 year old girl with terminal cancer. Where the story begins she has already fought against the cancer for 3 years and knows that the best thing she can do now is live as much life as she can. No one wants to die knowing they never lived. 

First things first she wants sex. It's not surprising that a 16 year old girl would want to experience all the things she has read about or watched on TV. Quickly she learns that real life isn't a fairy tale. Tessa is sometimes angry, sometimes sad, lonely, and sometimes she learns to take it as things are. As you follow her through the story you learn to cope with the things just the way she does. The sadness about missing things, the anger about knowing you won't get to do everything that you had hoped in life. I mentioned that the first 200 pages were slow, but the last 127 are painful, emotional and raw. I think the way it's laid out the story just brings you along and shows you to feel the way Tessa does. It's angry, rushed, sad, just like her life. And in the end it goes by so fast that you almost feel like it's not real. 

If books make you cry, you'll cry. I did, and I'm not afraid to admit it. It's a story that you know from the beginning isn't going to end like we all hope it will. There is no fooling yourself, and no sense of false security given. And yet you still get carried along and remain at odds with the cancer battle. I'm glad I read this book. The New York Times Book Review says "I don't care how old you are. This book will not leave you." And I think they are right. It really made me think about all those I've already lost to cancer in my life. None of them were children. I really cannot fathom. Read it. You won't regret it.

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