Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Review: Now is Good/Before I Die - Jenny Downham
Pages: 327 pages, paperback
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads): 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.
My review: Yes, I'm ridiculously late to the party by reviewing this one five years after everybody else, I know. I received a copy of the newly titled Now is Good (to tie in with the film) at the Random House Blogger Brunch a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me that I still haven't posted my review of this one.
The main thing that struck me about Now is Good is how beautiful Downham's writing style is. Like Laini Taylor and Lauren Oliver, she has such a delicate, lyrical flow that it is impossible not to be moved by. It fitted in perfectly with the tone of the book and Tessa having such a vulnerable voice definitely made the story more powerful.
Tessa is such an interesting character. A sixteen year old girl who knows she has a matter of weeks left alive must be difficult to write but Downham does it perfectly. She's angry, she's upset, she's defiant and she's so strong, determined to get check off every item on her To Do Before I Die list, whatever the cost. We see her tearing her room apart and destroying her belongings, we see her losing her virginity (in the opening pages, no less - what a way to start a novel!), we see her at her darkest times and we see her emerge from all of that as a realistic, memorable character who I don't think will ever be forgotten.
Now is Good is difficult to read in places. Reading about a sixteen year old preparing to die is never going to be a particularly enjoyable experience but there are moments of joy and light and laughter in this story, which stops it being too depressing and leaves you feel uplifted instead of just sad. Although you will feel sad, that's inevitable. I would have shed a tear at the ending (which was just fantastic), if it wasn't for my boyfriend choosing that moment to throw a pillow at my head in an immature bid for attention. Douche bag.
What I loved most about Now is Good is that it's real. Real to the point that sometimes you question Tessa's actions, sometimes you feel angry with her and even more often you feel angry with her family and friends, especially her mother. But I'd rather read a book that makes me angry but rings true than something with a Hollywood ending that loses its authenticity in a bid to make everybody happy. Tessa's mother and Zoe were both very interesting and, although I didn't particularly warm up to Zoe, I really did feel for Tessa's mother, who was hopeless but still charming.
I was a little dubious when I heard about the film adaptation but we were shown the trailer at the Random House Blogger Brunch and it's great, it really looks as though they've done a great job so I can't wait to see it. What do you think about the film adaptation? Are you excited or do you think they should have left the book alone? Will you be going to see it?
First line: 'I wish I had a boyfriend.'
Read if you liked…: Wonder - R. J. Palacio
Total: 15/20 (B)