Diane's Reviews > Before I Die

Before I Die by Jenny Downham
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Aug 13, 2008

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Read in July, 2008

Jenny Downham is a very good writer who hasn't quite found the right story to tell.

This one is an awful idea; the wishes of a dying teen. I want to take Downham gently by the hand and show her the maggnificent Nothing Sacred, a dazzling comedy about a girl who pretends to be dying of cancer and is embraced by new York in an orgy of sentimentality. Eventually she has to fess up, but not until she'd had a lot of free lunches.

Other reviewers loved the idea of a dying girl with such 'umble aspirations taking wing with the muse from time to time, but I thought the voice of Jenny contained way too many self-indulgent pieces of fine writing. They WERE fine, sometimes needle-sharp though sometimes exaggerated, but they weren't in character. A girl who thinks in this language wouldn't just want to live her life according to every commonplace of her generation. She'd want to climb Snowdon or surf Waimea or act in Hamlet. where you coudl really see Downham glow was in the minor characters, who were exceptional - Dad, Zooey (great portrayal of a certain kind of girl) and the two lovers. I shall watch out for her next book. I think she coudl write something great. This wasn't it, but it was promising.
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