Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.
Been meaning to read this book ever since it first appeared on the shelves of my local Waterstones last year (which incidentally I challenge you to find a better looking bookshop, anywhere!). Something about it said it was a book I’d probably enjoy, but for whatever reason it was one that never got bought. Slip forward a year and I get an email from bookmooch announcing an available copy, so getting in before anyone else did, I quickly mooched it!
It was well worth the wait, this is one of those young adult books that would not only be enjoyed by adults who happened to read it, it would also sit quite happily in the adult section of it’s own accord.
Books of this ilk tread a fine line of capturing the emotions without becoming self-indulgent or overly sentimental, while all the while remaining moving, and thankfully Jenny Downham manages to tell Tessa’s story in first person, with some style and originality.
This is helped in part by the fact that, Tessa, isn’t always the most likable person to know (just like anybody else on the planet!) her faults are there to see and aren’t glossed over just because she is about to die. This is all the more rewarding as the story develops (and her time nears) you do begin to really like her and her attitude towards her final few weeks.
A really nice – effect I suppose you’d call it – is when in the final few chapters the formatting and punctuation starts to fragment as Tessa endeavors to continue to tell her story. Sentences and paragraphs just stop, and then start again halfway down the page, capitalisation isn’t always used. It works really well and adds a bit of punch to the emotional ending.