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Before I Die
Before i die cover.jpg
Author Jenny Downham
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Young adult
Publisher David Fickling Books
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 336
ISBN 978-0-385-75158-2

Before I Die is a young adult novel written by Jenny Downham, first published by David Fickling Books in 2007. The novel follows the shortly ending life of Tessa, from her perspective.


Tessa is diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Despite four years of chemotherapy, she has discovered that her cancer is terminal and her doctors give her a short time to live. Tessa, with the help of her best friend Zoey, comes up with a list of things she wants to do before she dies, including some risky behaviours that she deems necessary to have "lived". Zoey is excited and supportive of the outrageous bucket list until an unplanned pregnancy test comes up positive.

Tessa's parents are divorced and have very different views on her desire to experience the dangerous side of life before she passes. Her mother is loving and joking about the situation and seems supportive; however, she has not been present in Tessa's treatments, nor involved in her life at a deep level. Tessa's father is timid and just wants to spend time with his daughter. He is resistant to Tessa's behaviour from the start, but realises he has little influence and can only enjoy the time they have left. Her father's main mechanism for coping is denial. She mentions that he spends hours on the computer looking up possible treatments for her even after the doctors have told her that the cancer has consumed her body.

Tessa's brother, Cal, is a brutally honest individual who has mixed feelings throughout the novel ranging from lack of care to jealousy to sadness. In the beginning of the novel, Cal says to his sister "I'm gonna miss you" during a joking situation.

One of Tessa's last wishes is to find love, of which she thinks she has with her neighbour Adam. Adam is shy, and his main priority is taking care of his sickly mother after his father died.

The book, written in first person from Tessa's point of view, follows her last few months of life, explores her relationships with her loved ones, and her personal feelings about being trapped in a failing body.


Tessa Scott
16-year-old battling leukaemia. Has a bucket list of things she wants to do before she dies, and makes Zoey and Adam help.
Cal Scott
Tessa's 11-year-old younger brother, who is stuck in the position of jealousy of his sister's attention and his sadness of her unavoidable death. Even in her last moments Cal makes jokes such as "Bye, Tess. Haunt me if you like. I don't mind."
Tessa's best friend, who in the beginning of the novel is her biggest advocate for living on the wild side, until she becomes pregnant. Tessa says to Zoey on occasion "Are you telling me to?", Zoey's answer is always "yes".
Tessa's boyfriend and neighbour, who spends most of his time attending to his mother, who after the death of his father became depressed. Adam is there when Tessa takes her last breath and is the love of her short life.
The boy that Tessa met in the club and lost her virginity to.
The father of Zoey's child and good friend of Jake.
Tessa's father
He is desperate to keep his daughter alive and has come to realise that he does not have a say in her actions and can only hope that she will come to her senses, often stressed out about what Tessa is doing but does not know what to do.
Tessa's mother
She divorced from Tessa's father before Tessa was diagnosed. She has not been present in her treatments and loves, nor involved in her life at a deep level.
Tessa's lesbian friend on the side. She only appears once in the novel.

Awards and nominations

Before I Die was listed for the 2007 Guardian Awards and the 2008 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year. It was nominated for the 2008 Carnegie Medal and the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize. Before I Die won the 2008 Branford Boase Award.

Film adaptation

The novel has been adapted into a film entitled Now Is Good by the production company Blueprint Pictures, in association with BBC Films and the UK Film Council. The film stars Jeremy Irvine as Adam, Dakota Fanning as Tessa and Kaya Scodelario as Zoey. Filming began on location in London and Brighton in July 2011. Now Is Good was released in September 2012.

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