I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish he lived in the wardrobe on a coat hanger. Whenever I wanted, I could get him out and he'd look at me the way boys do in films, as if I'm beautiful. He wouldn't speak much, but he'd be breathing hard as he took off his leather jacket and unbuckled his jeans. He'd wear white pants and he'd be so gorgeous I'd almost faint. He'd take my clothes off too. He'd whisper, 'Tessa, I love you. I really bloody love you. You're beautiful' - exactly those words - as he undressed me.
Before I Die is the first novel by British author Jenny Downham. It's my first read of the new year, as well as my first book in both the Romance Reading challenge and the New Authors challenge. It's one of those books which I'm almost scared of reviewing, because I know it will be difficult to make it justice in my review.
The main character and narrating voice in Before I Die is sixteen-year-old Tessa Scott, a British girl who's dying of leukaemia. After four years of treatment, she knows that she has just months to live, so she makes a list of ten things she wants to do before dying. Having sex is the first item on the list; then there's trying drugs, committing a crime, driving... Accompanied in her quest by her reckless friend Zoey, Tessa thinks that there are no consequences for her, and takes a highly risky approach to life, while her body struggles to keep up. However, things don't always go as she expects. Having sex with a random guy doesn't make her feel loved; and taking drugs leaves her more depressed than ever. It's the meeting with a special boy which will make her fall in love for the first time, thus changing her life.
One of the most peculiar traits in this stunning book is the careful depiction of Tessa's inner and outer world. She has a younger brother who says considerate things like, "When Tessa dies, can we go on holiday?"; a doting father, whose strategy for coping is denial; and an estranged mother, who seems so distant from her daughter's situation. Her pain and anger are very realistically conveyed.
This is a book which will stay with you long after you've finished it. Highly recommended, to older teens and adults alike. A word of advice, though; if you do read it, keep a box of tissues handy - you know tears will be flowing.