Before I Die

This is the saddest book I have read in the past several years; in all my life, maybe. Other people keep saying that it has taught them to appreciate life, to live fully. I didn’t feel that. I only felt sad. Or maybe it didn’t sink in just yet.

Several years ago I have seen “Sweet November” and I thought the final decision was a worthwhile one. This novel made me doubt that. Hollywood is always trying to make things easy.

Their love seemed a bit unrealistic to me. But I think that in such a situation it was only fair for Tessa to “get it right” the first time. I can understand why she wanted to do drugs and break the law. After all, what did it matter? But I don’t see the line of thought behind the “instructions” she left for Adam.

“Look after no one except yourself. Go to University, and make lots of friends, and get drunk! Forget your door keys! Laugh! Eat Pot Noodles for breakfast. Miss lectures. Be irresponsible.”

Is that the only way to feel alive?

Here is the list of quotes, finally. I might have gotten some of the punctuation wrong since I translated from audio.

  • (about god) I don’t think so. I think he might be dead.
    (p1, 5:10)
  • Live fast, die young, have a good-looking corpse!
    (p1, 21:30)
  • I don’t think words reach people. Maybe nothing does.
    (p1 37:45)
  • Four years of pathetic optimism burns well.
    (p1 1:05:00)
  • I want to live before I die. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
    (p2 5:40)
  • (about heaven) I think it’s a great big lie. When you’re dead, you’re dead.
    (p3 5:00)
  • Every few years we disappear […]. All our cells are replaced by others. Not a single bit of me is the same as when I was last in this room. I was someone else when I wrote my name in there. Someone healthy.
    (p4 13:20)
  • I used to believe that dad could do anything. Save me from anything. But he can’t. He’s just a man.
    (p4 26:00)
  • Perhaps I’m dead. Perhaps this is all it would be. The living will carry on in their world, touching, walking; and I’ll continue in this empty world, tapping soundlessly on the glass between us.
    (p4 27:00)
  • I mostly believe in chaos. If wishes came true, my bones wouldn’t ache as if all the space inside them is used up. There wouldn’t be a mist in front of my eyes that I can’t brush away. […] The Universe might be random, but I can make something different happen.
    (p4 28:20)
  • It’s easy to talk in the dark. I never knew that before.
    (p5 6:50)
  • To find love, just as I go and have to give it up. It’s such a bad joke.
    (p5 20:50)
  • How can I feel older than my own mother? I close my eyes so I don’t have to see her fail.
    (p5 26:50)
  • It’s so tangible. Being and not being.
    (p6 13:35)
  • This mad psycho tells everyone to get into a field and says “I’m going to pick one of you, just one of you, out of all of you to die;” and everyone’s looking around thinking “It’s so unlikely to be me, because there’s thousands of us, so statistically it’s completely unlikely;” and the psycho walks up and down, looking at everyone, and when he gets near me he hesitates, and he smiles, and then he points right at me and says “You’re the one;” and the shock that it’s me, and yes of course it’s me, why wouldn’t it be, I knew all along!
    (p6 50:15)
  • Every time I close my eyes I fall. Endlessly falling.
    (p6 53:35)
  • The sound of a bird flying low across the garden. Then nothing. Nothing. A cloud passes. Nothing again. Light falls through the window; falls onto me, into me. Moments… all gathering… towards this one.
    (the end)

16 Responses to Before I Die

  1. aporia24 says:

    Sounds like an awesome book to me.

  2. Constantin says:

    By all means, read it.

  3. ilovemint says:

    Once again, you have convinced me to get another book. :]

    It sounds intense, and the subject itself is so intriguing itself of course…even though I haven’t read it (obviously) I can kind of relate to the views and subtle philosophies expressed in the book.

    I think what Tessa (whoever she is in the book), by leaving those ‘instructions’ as you call them, wants Adam to realise the joy of moment, and the importance as well – she wants him to be safely insane for a while, to live as though he were going to die tomorrow. By asking him to treat the trivial things with a sense of recklessness she is allowing a kind of…safety valve, shall we say, for him to vent off pressure – you know, how sometimes we need little outburts of madness to keep us from turning completely mad? So, Tessa is showing Adam a ‘way of being alive’ in that she is asking him to take risks, experience with thrills because…that’s what feeling alive is all about really.

    Not exactly the best way to live, but the best way of being alive.

  4. ilovemint says:

    …I could be entirely wrong of course, not having read the book, but that’s just the message taken in a general context. :]

  5. Constantin says:

    You’re so right without even having read it! Wow.

  6. ilovemint says:

    Wow, really? I’m psychic.

    jk, not really, but I’m rushing out this afternoon to get this book. I love stimulating and thought-provoking books like these!

  7. Kaytee says:

    I have read this book, i am only 16 and read it when i was 15 but flipping heck it is amazing, i reccomend it to anyone. I have lent it to my friends and they love it. It is easy to understand even though it is so intense.

  8. Cali says:

    I think ‘Before i die’, has opened up so much for me. I have always been the most optiistic of all my friends, the person who can be the happiest when achieving nothing and still smile. Out of all the thousands of books i have read over the years, its one of the best, and the only one that i have felt i have achieved something by reading it.

    I was in the book shop buying a book for college when i was paying, i rushed over to the shelf where it was and thought to myself ‘whey have i not already read this?’.

    I read the blurb, thought it sounded abit cheesy about her wanting to have sex and all… but the book as a whole was just incredible from beginning to end. I literally could not put it down. Transfixed.

    This book has given me so much more than i already was. It almost completed my lust for life, to go out there and live. To look at the trees, the lamp posts, smell the flowers, touch the ice and feel the cold all through out my body.

    I recommend it to anyone.

    Sorry for blabbing, but i try to tell my friends to read it, they just dont understand what it could do for them, they dont even read anyway.

    Before i die- Im glad i read it before i did.


  9. Cali says:

    & Thanks for the quotes, i kept folding down the pages where i liked the quotes as i read.
    I came to the end of the book and realised the book had a triangular chunk in the corner where i had folded them all down.


  10. Constantin says:

    I’m glad there’s someone out there who’s as enthusiastic about this as I am!

  11. […] the first part, the book takes us on a dizzying to-do list of adventures (I tend to like novels that contain lists). It promises to be a page-turner with tons of fun and no  deep moral. But the second part makes a […]

  12. Beth says:

    It really is an amazing book.
    I finished it overnight, just couldn’t put it down.
    and i really was in tears at the end.
    i’d recommend it to anyone.

  13. Rozzy says:

    I read this book for my higher english personal study course and i could not put it down my friend recommended it to me and at first it sounded depressing going by the blurb but all the comments suggested it was uplifting so i read it and i loved it i finished the book cried for a while then turned it back to the start and read it again! Its really good for my essay because their is just so much to write about i dont even have to think much just open the book at a random page then i find my inspiration for my point. I loved it so much and i agree very strongly with the point about how she wants adam to live recklessly and thats whats she’s telling him via the instructions! Im reading it for like the fourth or fifth time now and i’ve only had it like two months! I keep promising to lend it to my mum but each time she asks i’m reading it again when i finish it this time i’ll definately give it too her because i think that every one should read it because its so inspiring! It really gave me an insight into living with a terminal illness well done on your first book jenny downham it was really inspiring sad uplifting and thought provoking all at the same time!!

  14. Tessa 9yea actually, ironic) says:

    I’m 17 and i read it, to be honest, I didn’t think it was that great, don’t hate me for having an opinion. the writing was average and the storyline was good but in some points unrealistic. If you guys want a really good book to read about grief with amazing writing, read: “the gathering” by Anne Enright. beautiful.

  15. Constantin says:

    Thanks for the comment Tessa! I will put the book on my to-read list.

  16. Penn says:

    This book was sad.
    So sad.
    I hated the ending although that was the only way to end the book.
    I think that the main character Tessa is so unpredictable and I couldn’t really understnad her choices or emotions but…. maybe it’s cos I’m only 14?

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