Monday, October 11, 2010

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, is a novel based on a 16-year old girl, Tessa Scott, living with leukaemia since she was twelve. Tessa's story is told in first person by Tessa herself, describing her innermost thoughts and feelings. Tessa lives with her father and brother; her mother left them when Tessa was a young girl, but finally returned when she found out Tessa was sick. Tessa's father cannot accept the fact that his daughter is going to die; he is constantly looking up new ways to save her. Since Tessa has been sick, she has not been able to go to school, an everyday experience of teenage life. Instead, Tessa's routine consists of hospital visits, transfusions, and sleeping. Tessa wants to experience what every other teenager gets to go through, but she knows she has limited time. She decides to make a list of at least ten things she wants to do before she dies. When Tessa comes close to giving up on the list, she says, "All I know is that I have choices -- stay wrapped up in blackets and get on with dying, or get the list back together and get on with living." She realizes she can lie in her bed and wait to die or get up and enjoy her last few months of life, so she gets up and goes out with her spontaneous and daring friend Zoey. Zoey pushes Tessa to the limit and encourages her to be outgoing and daring, just as she is. Tessa eventually becomes a daring person herself and even falls in love, which is number nine on her list. It is a fictional teenage/young adult novel that really makes you appreciate life and every postive and negative experience in it.

Discussion Questions:
1. Tessa makes a list of things she wants to do before she dies. What are some things that you would like to accomplish before you die? Why?
2. Tessa's younger brother Cal sometimes "wishes death on her." Would you ever wish death on someone, even if they treated you unpleasantly?
3. Would you get involved, or even fall in love, with someone if you knew you were going to die? Would you consider their loss after you're gone?


Vanessa D. 13-14 said...

In response to 1, the one main thing I want to do before I die is inspire someone to do something good with their lives. I think that many people get wrapped up in the materialistic things in life and they lose who they are. I would like to inspire someone to be themselves and make a difference in the world weather it be through music, art, writing, speech, dance, whatever. Many people need to remember that being different is a good thing, and they should embrace their individuality.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

I completely agree with you. Helping out another person or helping them experience life in a different way is a huge part of life. I agree that people need to be happy that they're different, not try to hide it. Other than inspiring someone to do good with his or her life, what would you like to do for yourself?

For example, I know I want to travel the world, go to Oktoberfest in Germany, and bungee jump.

Megan L.11-12 said...

1. One thing I've always wanted to do before I die is to feel the earth spinning. As crazy as that sounds, one day in 6th grade my art teacher told us that when you stand still enough and relinquish your fears you can actually feel the earth spinning with you on it.I think if I could accomplish this, my life would be complete.

2. I think as a young child, everybody wishes death on somebody without truly knowing what sort of consequences that could actually cause. In reality, the death of someone to whom you have wished death upon doesn't solve anything. As my mother always said, "Never wish someone to die, because when they do you'll never forgive yourself for ever saying that no matter how long ago it was."

3. I don't think that love can really be controlled. Yes, you can control your own actions towards someone, so in theory he or she would never know about your adoration of them, but it's not easy tricking yourself into believing you love or don't love somebody. We are dying everyday of our lives and yet we still love. Why can't a person who is just dying quicker than us have the same joy as we do?

Vanessa D. 13-14 said...

There are a bunch of things I would like to do before I die so I'll just name a few. I am currently creating a list of the top 50 most influential women in the media and I would like to have them all sign my first guitar. I also would like to write a song with Kenny Chesney because I think he is brilliant. I would like to get a guitar lesson from Keith Urban because he is AMAZING on guitar.

As for traveling, I have always wanted to go to Paris and watch the Eiffel Tower light up on New Years Eve, and I also want to go to Alaska and watch the sunset then a minute later rise.

There are a lot more but I won't type them all. :)

Bojana D 11.12 said...

Megan: That does sound crazy, but I feel like the things we want to experience before our time is over are things that are unrealistic or out of the ordinary. I know I would not bungee jump on a daily basis.

And I think wishing death on someone is a terrible thing to do. If something bad actually does happen, then like your mother said, you'll feel guilty for the rest of your life.

I completely agree with that last statement, that everyone should get the chance to love since we're all dying but others more quickly. Everyone should be able to love once in their lives. I would imagine that it's a beautiful thing. I honestly don't know if love is controllable or not because I've never been in love or anything like it. Maybe one day I'll find out and have a stronger view on it.

Vanessa: I feel like what everyone wants to do before they die are things that represent their individuality. For example, a lot of your goals are music related, where as mine are more travel related. What we want to do before we die, I think, represents our character and personality.

Kelsey M. 11/12 said...

In response to question two, I agree with what Megan said. We often do not realize the power of our words and how greatly they can affect others. I think in light of everything that our school has been going through lately, it is important to really think before we speak. Everyone handles situations differently and some take things more to heart than others. Wishing death on someone is ultimately the worst thing you could ever do. I read somewhere that the boy who shot himself was told by another classmate to just go shoot himself and no one would care if he died. Then, he did end up shooting himself. Whether, we say it aloud or just think it, wishing death on someone can leave you with guilt for the rest of your life.

Mike B 13-14 said...

In response to number one their are many things i wish to acomplish before i die. Before i die i want to have a family and pass on the good qualities i have learned throughout my life to them and others around me. I want to change the lives of others for the better. I want to become sucessful so i can change the lives of other people. Learning about other cultures made me realize how good my life is in the United States. If possible i would like to travel or donate money to less fortunate countries. When i die i want all of my money donated to others. I want to travel the world and see how others live and get other perspectives on life. I want to learn what others think is important and how they live their lives. Gaining this insight would help me understand what life realy is.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

Kelsey: I was actually paralling our school situation to this book too. People really do need to think before they speak because what may mean nothing to one of us may mean the complete opposite to someone else. In school, what is said to one person may appear like a harmless joke to someone else. That's a really good parallel though; it's something all of us from Mentor can relate to.

Mike: It seems as though you want to leave behind the best traits of you and experience as much as possible before death. I would also like to help other countries out. I always think, I just want to get a giant plane and drop food all over Africa or another less fortunate place.

Kenneth C.M. 13-14 said...

For question 1. I totally agree with Mike. I would very much like to see how different other cultures are and at the same time attempt to help the under privileged. Before I die I want to know humanity. It sounds odd but it's really what I want to do. I've been living in the same town my whole life. I'm accustomed to basically the same type of life every single day. There is obviously a countless amount of other ways people are living on this earth and I would like to feel a sort of unity with my whole race instead of my city when I die. I feel like this could give me a sort of peace about death by better understanding life in general.

2. Absolutely not. Of course I know people who are literally worthless and the world would be a better place without them, but it's those kinds of people that motivate me. I have a fear that if I don't succeed and if I make poor decisions my life could end up like theirs, so they set an example of what not to do for me. Plus if it came true I would feel extremely guilty. Every person has a mother that loves that person and to deprive a mother of her child is the cruelest thing you can do.

Emily C. 13-14 said...

2. i definitely agree with everyone on this one, i think that in the moment when people get mad they just say things that they dont really mean, but people need to think before they say things because you never know what is going to happen in life or how your words can affect someone, so even if you do get really mad at some one people need to think before they say something as hurtful as wishing death on someone.

3. i think it would be hard to decide to fall in love with someone because you can't always control it. if i knew i was dying i would want to experience love but i would think of what it was doing to the other person and how they would feel when i was gone. i ould probably try to keep my distance and not put someone through that, but in the end probably end up giving in because it is too hard to control.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

1. I agree. I have been to Bosnia and Croatia, less fortunate countries and you see people living on the streets, living paycheck to paycheck, but they're still happy. You see how war has torn the country apart. Living here, we complain, but we need to realize we have it good. Too many people are too ignorant to think there are others who have it worse.

2. That's a really good way to look at it. I look at those who don't care and think"What are you going to do with your life? Where will you be in 10 years?" And not wanting to be like them is what motivates me to be successful and strive for greatness. But wishing death on anyone is sickening, even if you don't like them at all. Like you said, look at those who you don't like and see the situation posively. Like you said, have them motivate you to do better with yourself.

2. Completely agreed. Once again, your response can be related to the situation we have going on in school. People's words will have different effects on different people.

3. Once again, I agree. Well I'm pretty sure I do. Like i said before I don't know what love is so it's hard to answer this question. But I'm pretty sure you can't control who you love. I guess love is kind of like like, but only deeper. Putting up a wall only works for so long.

Kara K. 5/6 said...

1) I completely agree with Kenny and them. It would be amazing to learn about other cultures and get to know the world instead of being confined to our our city. It would be fun to explore all the states and go overseas. I have always wanted to visit Australia. I heard it is a beautiful place.
2)I would never in my life wish dealth on someone. I think that even if someone treats you poorly, they still have their right to their life. If you would wish death on someone and they really did die, you would feel guilty for the rest of your life. I think that everyone should die of old age. War, murder, and everything else is just plain out stupid. Many people get their lives taken away to quickly and for no reason.
3)This is a hard question, because a lot of the times it is hard to stop your feelings from falling for someone. However, if i knew I was going to die, I would try and keep more distant from them, so when I was gone they would be able to move on quicker. Most people if they are in love will stick by each other sides even in time of death. I know many people who have lost loved ones and stuck by their side through everything. It was hard for them after the lose, but they felt good about themselves that they did not give up.

Kristen T. 11-12 said...

I completely agree with what Kelsey was saying and how she related question 2 to our school's current situation. I would never wish death upon someone, no matter what that person may have done. Everyone makes mistakes; it is what you learn from your mistakes that is important. Everyone has the right to live their life how they choose, and no one should have anyone tell them that they don't deserve to live. As Kelsey said, some people are very sensitive to comments dealing with death, and everyone interprets things in a different way. I could never live with myself if I felt as though I were responsible for someone's death.

SeanK56 said...

for number 3, yes I would deffinatly. I would want to live my life to the fullest and share everything I could with someone. It would be impossible not to consider their pain and that would be the main thing that would stop me. But in the end, I would hope that I taught them to live and love other no matter what you are going through in life, and that even when dying you can do anything you want to.

Jacob B 11-12 said...

1 Kenny: i completely agree with you. I want to get out and see the world. I love getting to know other cultures. that was one of the main reasons i wanted to take this course. as soon as i heard that we were going to study world literature I knew it would be a great class.
2 I would never wish death upon anyone, especially a family member. you never know when someone is going to die and that may be the last thing you say to them and you will have to live with that guilt for the rest of your life

JessieW 11-12 said...

in response to number one, i want to change the world somehow before i die. i have no idea how, but i want to be remembered.
however, i would also like to learn how to surf. i think it would be freaking awesome.

Dana G. 13-14 said...

This sounds like an awesome novel!
In response to question 3, I believe that every acquaintance met in life is there for a reason. Although you may have limited time left to love another person, or join an activity, the person that will be left behind will most likely take away a lesson, whether good or bad, and learn from it. I would be upset if i knew I would emotionally hurt someone after I am gone, but in the long run, the more people you know, for however short a time, the more of a 'well shaped' person you will become.