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.
When Your Life
When I first heard about this book, it came along with a pile of recommendations from people I knew who has absolutely loved it, and so I was certain that I would feel the same way. So when it didn’t quite have the spark I was expecting, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. This book was a great read, it was interesting, heart-breaking, and entertaining, but it just didn’t have enough to make me truly love it. I wanted to, but it just wasn’t happening. But, don’t get me wrong, this book is an incredible read that I’m glad to have read, I was just upset that I couldn’t quite get the enthusiasm for it that some of my friends had for it. This is a book worth reading, and one that I’m sure you’ll definitely like, just be aware that you may not love it – but then again, maybe you will.
Is Almost Over
One of the things that drew me to this book in the first place was the premise. It was such an interesting concept for the book and it really drew me into it. Fortunately, the story itself was the one thing that I really liked. It kept me interested, and I was really intrigued by how certain things would pan out. In the end, this led to an emotional, heartbreaking story as you really connect with the characters and the journey they go through. This could have been a book that didn’t truly deal with the consequences of Tessa’s illness but Jenny Downham didn’t let that happen as she really described all of the things that occurred while Tess just tried to carry on with her life while she still had it.
You Must Fight
It is very possible that the reason I didn’t love this book was because of the characters. While they were all extremely well written with very realistic and believable behaviours, I simply found myself gritting my teeth whenever Zoey appeared. I really struggled to like Tess’ best friend so that even when you were supposed to have sympathy for her, I just couldn’t summon it. There were also times when Tess got on my nerves, which irritated me because who am I to be irked by the dying character? This few moments really brought the book down a peg for me and I feel that if I had liked all of the characters and connected to them, I would have enjoyed this story a lot more.
Despite all of that, it is clear that Jenny Downham has created some really complicated, real, strong characters and that shouldn’t be downcast because I personally didn’t like their personalities! One character who I adored from the moment we’re introduced to him is Adam. I loved how sweet and charming and protective he is, he’s also funny, sensitive, and smart. I adored how he looked after Tess despite telling her that he couldn’t. I admired how he treated his mum and by the end of his journey, I was so smitten with him that I got irritated at how little Tess appreciated him (in my opinion!).
To Make It
Aside from the characters, I also found myself struggling with the writing style of this novel. It was easy to follow, but there was just something about it that didn’t sit well with me. If I could pinpoint what it was, or why that was, then I would but I think it was more that I just didn’t feel right while I was reading. More likely, it was simply a personal preference and the writing style is one that many others have gushed over. The one moment that really sticks out in my mind is the last few chapters. These were really powerfully written and made me very connected to the book. I feel they could have been even more powerful if I had connected to the words earlier in the story though.
The Best Life Yet
Overall, this book was lovely to read and kept me interested enough to keep going to the end. It had some great moments in it that caught me unawares and had me shedding a fair few tears as well. It had a strong, painful, real story that I feel would have affected me a lot more if I had been able to connect better with the characters. This is a story that I would recommend to others as I did like it, but I am just disappointed in myself for not loving it as much as I hoped I would. It was, after all, a truly amazing, emotionally captivating, whirlwind of a book that should have had me clutching my heart in happiness one minute to curling up into a shed of tears the next. So if you do pick this book up, be cautious that you may end up loving it completely, or you may just like it but do know that whatever happens, it will definitely be worth it.
** I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. **