Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die

Written by Jenny Downham

YA readers   13+ readers   If They Like...They'll Love   eBooks   
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Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2008. This is a haunting yet truly amazing read but don't read it too young. Definitely not for someone less than 14 years old. If you knew you were going to die what would you want to do? Imagine this from a teenage perspective when you have done so little. Imagine the effects of this on your friends and family. Even with the very bleak storyline this book is incredibly life-affirming.

Shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2008.

Comments from the judges of the Branford Boase, Best Debut Novel of
2008 Award:

Nikki Gamble: “This year a large number of books were submitted for the awards and the judges noted an increase in established adult writers producing first novels for children. These trends reflect the increased profile of children's books in the press and media as well as the commercial success. The books selected for the shortlist are marked by their distinctive voices and authentic feeling for child or teenage readers. They are accessible but explore profound themes in the context of a story well told”.

Linda Buckley-Archer: “With its aim of recognising the author of the best debut novel for children and its editor(s), The Branford Boase Award continues to highlight and promote the next generation of children’s fiction writers. The 2008 shortlist represents some fascinating new voices across a variety of genres which are sure to excite and challenge readers. The judges noted a tendency on this year’s longlist away from fantasy and towards history and social realism.”

Trish Beswick: “We were delighted to find a spread of intelligent fiction submitted, eliciting spirited discussion amid the good humour and agreements. One-size-fits-all cannot and does not belong in the world of writing for children, and the complacent and bland were quickly cast aside. My thanks to the other judges for a booky, sparky afternoon!”

Ian Dodds: "The nominations for the 2008 Branford Boase Award yet again demonstrate the full range of new writing talent for children and young people. All the writers on this year's shortlist have distinct voices and all are adept at creating stories that will grip, excite and challenge young readers. Good writing for young people is vitally important and this shortlist proves that."

Win a Chaos Walking Goody Bag!

To mark the 10th anniversary of The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first of the awesome YA trilogy that launched Patrick Ness, we are giving away FIVE fantastic Chaos Walking goody bags. Each prizes includes a special collector's edition of The Knife of Never Letting Go, a t'shirt and a print!

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To have a chance of winning one of these prizes click the button below. Please note that this draw is open only for UK residents and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once.

The draw closes on 9 April 2018. The winners will be notified by 23 April 2018.

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Enter prize draw Draw closes: 09/04/2018


Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Tessa has just a few months to live. So she compiles her bucket list, her To Do Before I Die list. 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. Heartbreaking yet astonishingly life-affirming. Before I Die will take you to the very edge.

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Novels for young teenagers do not usually feature drugs and casual sex within the first 20-odd pages. But most books for teenagers will not leave an adult reader's eyes so blurry with tears that it's hard to see the final chapters. Jenny Downham's extraordinary first novel does both The Sunday Times This is an affecting and brave novel. Tessa is such a rich character ... For everyone, it is a reminder to value the people that matter, seize the moment, wish with courage, adventure with relish, even if it's just a trip to the swimming pool, drinking hot chocolate or driving down a dual carriageway in the rain Guardian Destined to drive hundreds of thousands of readers to tears and to swift injunctions to all their friends to read it Observer Before I Die is so real, so sad, so true - and I so wish I'd written it myself Jacqueline Wilson Tough but tender, angry rather than resigned, Tessa is an appealing heroine whose company is never less than bracing Independent

About the Author

Jenny Downham

Jenny Downham was our Guest Editor in January 2010. Click here to see the books she chose.

Jenny Downham was an actress for many years before concentrating on her writing full-time. She lives in London with her two sons. Her book Before I Die was critically acclaimed and was short listed for the 2007 Guardian Award and the 2008 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year, nominated for the 2008 Carnegie Medal and the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize, and won the 2008 Branford Boase Award.

Get to know Jenny more by watching her 30 second interview.

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Book Info


336 pages


Jenny Downham
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Definitions an imprint of Random House Children's Publishers UK

Publication date

2nd July 2015




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