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Jukebooks: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die by Jenny DownhamTessa is a sixteen year-old girl dying of leukemia in Before I Die, a raw, heart-wrenching novel by Jenny Downham. Readers meet Tessa as she imagines something she has never had and is afraid she never will: a boyfriend. Having sex is just one of the items on her bucket list. With a light brush of humor, Downham avoids cliche and melodrama as Tessa makes the most of the life left to her. Readers looking for an uplifting tearjerker will find one of the best in this 2008 Teens’ Top Ten winner.

If I Die Young by The Band Perry is a melodic eulogy for the “sharp knife of a short life.” At first, the song struck me as the opposite of the book, because it romanticizes the aftermath of an early death. But songwriter Kimberley Perry’s comments on the song are more life-affirming:

We really have gotten to live and love at our young ages. ‘If I Die Young,’ for us, is about if it all ends at this moment, look at what we’ve gotten to do. Whatever time we’re given will be absolutely enough as long as we make the most of it.

Below is the music video featuring the talented Perry siblings.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advanced reader’s copy of Anywhere But Here by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, and listening to The Cukoo’s Calling written by Robert Galbraith and read by Robert Glenister

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Diane Colson

I have been a librarian working with youth since 1998, beginning at the Alachua County Library District, and later at Palm Harbor Library and Nashville Public Library. Possibly because of the edgy nature of teen literature, or possibly because my maturation process crashed at the age of fifteen years-old, I love YA books. And I enjoy working with YAs as well, although I'm just as happy doing Toddler Time. By some good fortune, I have served on a number of YALSA selection committees (Outstanding Books for the College Bound, Popular Paperbacks, Alex Award, Odyssey Award, Nonfiction Award, Morris Award, and Printz) as well as a smattering of process committees. Currently I am serving on the YALSA Board. .I also review books for VOYA, School Library Journal's Adult4Teen Blog, BookPage, and Booklist.