I scheduled this theme before I knew what a hard week this would be for me to choose this particular theme, but I truly feel these books are so important and maybe more important after we’ve experienced loss of our own.On Saturday, I wrote a post devoted to my grandfather whom my family lost this weekend.

If you missed last week’s theme all about YA boarding school books, check out the review here 

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to interview two teens who attend a real boarding school, read their interview here

Onto today’s post…


Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Synopsis from Goodreads: Tessa has just 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, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.


Why I Love This Book: Well, first off, it’s British and I do love a good British book. Second, Tessa isn’t portraying the strong, inspirational, saint-like cancer kid. She’s rebellious and mouthy and defiant…she’s a teenage girl through and through and that’s what makes this even more heartbreaking. Her bucket list is something no father would ever want to look at and yet, you can’t help but fall in love with her and watch her accidentally, against her own will, fall in love with the boy next door. Of course I sobbed my eyes out reading this story but it’s so beautiful and I also laughed a ton…how is it possible that a book where the main character is truly dying can be hilarious at times, but it totally is. And I love that the author doesn’t gloss over the ugly side of cancer. She doesn’t make the character beautiful and perfect yet dying…there’s physical as well as emotional blockers, keeping Tessa from getting close to someone. It isn’t about the end, it’s about the now…And speaking of the “now” there is movie version of this book coming out soon and it’s retitled Now Is Good and it stars Dakota Fanning.

Who Should Read This Book: Before I Die is probably for the 13 or 14 and up readers because it has more mature content as far as language and sex. But honestly, I love how sex is addressed in this book. Reading this, I learned so much about when and why to add these type of scenes to a YA book and how powerful they can be if done well and for the right reasons. If you totally can’t stand the idea of reading a sad book, then stay away from this one, but I almost hate to say that because it’s so much more than a sad book. Trust me.

Julie’s Top 10 YA Titles on Death And Dying

1) The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
2) The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
3) If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
4) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
5) Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
6) How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr
7) Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
8)Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
9) The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (three book series)
10) In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Perfect 10 Teen Members and Guest Members Recommend

Remember Me by Christopher Pike (suggested by Holly, age 17, UK resident)
Torn by Cat Clarke (suggested by Tara, age 18, UK resident)
Saving June by Hannah Harrington (suggested by Zareen, age 17, CA)
The Beginning of After by Jennifer castle (Also from Zareen)

Have you read any of these titles? What else have you read on the subject of death and dying that’s had a major impact on you?


About the Author:


  1. Brooke DelVecchio September 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    May I add Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver? I really enjoyed this book, when I thought for sure I would not.
    If I Stay was also amazing, I have not had a chance to read the second one yet. I am interested to see where that goes.

  2. Julie Cross September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Brooke, Before I Fall! Good one! And Where She Went is really great. i loved being in Adam's head for that book. It's beautiful.

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