Sarah's Stars

Jenny Downham. Before I Die  
David Fickling Books  $20.99  ISBN 978-0-385-75155-1  326 pg.
Reviewed by Ceilidh, Age 15 

Dad says, ‘Hey, you’re up!’ Then he notices the mini-dress I’m wearing and his lips tighten. ‘Let me guess. You’re going out with Zoey?’

‘Anything wrong with that?’

He pushes my vitamins to me across the kitchen table. ‘Don’t forget these.’ Usually he brings me them up on a tray, but he won’t have to bother today. You’d think that’d make him happy, but he just sits there watching me swallow pill after pill.

Tessa has been somewhat familiarized with death already. Everyone knows they are going to die, but Tessa knows when she will die. She has cancer, a scary six-letter word especially for a sixteen year-old that has not yet fulfilled her life expectations or so she sees it. She has a list. A list of ten things she wants to do before she dies. She wants to learn to drive, she wants to say yes to everything for a day, she wants love, but most of all, she wants to have sex. She goes out of her way to cross things off her list. She is well aware that she is going to die; she is not in denial. Her family is. She tells them that it is inevitable, because she gave up treatment and succumbed long ago.

This was a shocking book for me to read; I have never read a book like this, ever. It puzzled me to read a book when I knew the outcome, because sadly, it is an outcome that you can predict from the beginning. But still, at the end, I cried for all the characters in the book, including Tessa. Though I thought this book was very informative, I could probably never read it again, not because it’s a bad book, because in truth, it is very, very good, but it really scared me. It was terrifying to know that people go through ordeals like Tessa’s cancer every day, and that people die from cancer every day. It was very sad, but at the same time, I know it is a book that will be very difficult to forget. Every one knows someone or knows of someone who has been affected by cancer, but to have it in words, it’s a really emotional experience. This is really a book that you will want to stop reading, and even knowing the ending, you will continue.

I give this book five touching stars, and more if I could. I recommend this book for mature readers. Before I Die is a book that should be shared with anyone who has or hasn’t dealt with cancer at some time.

N.b.: I would like to dedicate this review to my Auntie Norah, who is battling cancer right now. She finished a round of chemo just before Christmas and started another one a little before the New Year. All I can do is hope that she will pull through. 

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