Reviews for Before I Die : Library Edition

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 October #5

Parry delivers a genuine, unflinching performance as Tessa, a terminally ill British teenager determined to cram all the living she can into her final days. Tessa's ultimate to-do list includes more acts of abandon than accomplishments: having sex, doing something illegal and falling in love. But Parry's skillful narration combined with debut novelist Downham's honest and direct writing style keep this from becoming a hokey caper or melodramatic "after-school special" listening experience. Parry laudably colors her reading with the broad range of raw emotion that Tessa experiences, from rage and fear to even a few moments of euphoria. She captures an authentic dynamic among the people in Tessa's inner circle, including her anxious, heartbroken father, exuberant best friend and steadfast, Scottish-sounding boyfriend. Most memorably, listeners hear Tessa's unspoken words--snippets of inner monologues, dreams and flashes of memories that drift into her fading consciousness as she lays dying. Strains of mournful, soulful music close the program; the result is both wrenching and cleansing. Ages 14-up. Simultaneous release with the Random/Fickling hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 6). (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 January

Gr 9 Up-- Tessa has a list of things to do before she dies. Her chemotherapy is no longer working and her four-year struggle with leukemia will soon end. Sometimes angry and rebellious, other times exhausted and forlorn, the 16-year-old Brit in Jenny Downhom's novel (David Fickling Books, 2007) crams sex, drugs, and a few illegal acts into the few months she has left. Best friend Zo abets her outrageous acts until Zo's pregnancy test comes out positive. Tessa's dad is steadfast and patient, her little brother is often torn between deep concern and jealous frustration, and her once runaway mom is loving, but occasionally distant. Adam, Tessa's new boyfriend, is helping his emotionally-fragile mother after his father's recent death, but in her last days, he's her constant, comforting companion. Told from Tessa's viewpoint, even in her last moments, the story draws listeners into a gut-wrenching range of real emotions. Narrator Charlotte Porrus is both ethereal and passionate as she conveys all these feelings. With its uncompromising reflections on the harsh realities of terminal illness and straightforward descriptions of sex and drugs, this title is most appropriate for a mature teen audience. For public libraries and high school libraries with liberal collection development policies.--Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT

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