Sixteen-year-old Tessa, with terminal leukemia and little time to live, has a list of things to do before she dies, among them sex, drugs, breaking the law, and driving a car. Relentlessly honest narration and distinct character interpretations increase the emotional impact. Explicit sex scenes are sensitively handled and add to the realism of the story. Standard: Students will analyze the author's decisions on developing and relating elements of a story. Learning Activity: Examine Tessa's choices, exploring the reasons behind them, and discuss choices students might make in a similar situation. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Parry delivers a genuine, unflinching performance as Tessa, a terminally ill British teenager determined to cram all the living she can into her final days. Tessa's ultimate to-do list includes more acts of abandon than accomplishments: having sex, doing something illegal and falling in love. But Parry's skillful narration combined with debut novelist Downham's honest and direct writing style keep this from becoming a hokey caper or melodramatic "after-school special" listening experience. Parry laudably colors her reading with the broad range of raw emotion that Tessa experiences, from rage and fear to even a few moments of euphoria. She captures an authentic dynamic among the people in Tessa's inner circle, including her anxious, heartbroken father, exuberant best friend and steadfast, Scottish-sounding boyfriend. Most memorably, listeners hear Tessa's unspoken words-snippets of inner monologues, dreams and flashes of memories that drift into her fading consciousness as she lays dying. Strains of mournful, soulful music close the program; the result is both wrenching and cleansing. Ages 14-up. Simultaneous release with the Random/Fickling hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 6). (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.