I read Jenny Downham’s first book Before I Die when I was at University. I was looking for books with unique first person viewpoint, and this was recommended to me. I remember picking it up at an independent bookstore, where the girl working there warned me it would make me cry.
It didn’t make me cry – I rarely cry at books. Super rarely. I can count the books that made me cry on one hand. But, it was certainly an emotional ride, and though it wasn’t perfect – there are some elements of the story that were slightly annoying in my view – it affected me enough that years later, I picked up Downham’s next book You Against Me without hesitation.
This was a book that I thought was perfect. I loved the romance, I loved the challenging themes about family loyalty, honesty, coming of age and sexuality. The central conflict between the two main characters is all about their perception of their family, and their loyalty to them, and the way they gradually gravitate towards each other, and the repercussions of that, make this one of the best forbidden romance books I’ve read.
And it’s contemporary – at the time I read it, I didn’t really do contemporary YA. This certainly turned me onto the genre, and I’ve read loads of brilliant books since.
So I feel I owe this book a bit of a debt, and I’d definitely repay that debt by buying her next book!