My Life After Nowby Jessica Verdi
The last thing Lucy ever expected was to end up as another teen statistic
Sixteen-year-old Lucy never thought it would happen to her. She planned on becoming a Broadway star, living out her days with her leading man, Ty. Instead, a new girl walks off with her role and her guy. Lucy flies off the rails and does something completely out of/strong>… See more details below
The last thing Lucy ever expected was to end up as another teen statistic
Sixteen-year-old Lucy never thought it would happen to her. She planned on becoming a Broadway star, living out her days with her leading man, Ty. Instead, a new girl walks off with her role and her guy. Lucy flies off the rails and does something completely out of character. Something with consequences she'll have to live with the rest of her life...
What will she tell her family? Her friends? Off script and without the comforts of her simple high school problems, Lucy must figure out how to live and even embrace a life she thought was all but over.
"There are a few books about HIV-positive teenagers, and this is a poignant story." - School Library Journal
"This title deals with the heart-breaking reality of HIV infection among teens. Lucy tells her story with unflinching realistic detail, yet Verdi avoids both gratuitous description and preaching." - Library Media Connection
"Debut author Verdi paints Lucy's devastation and her tangled emotions with honesty and compassion. The reactions of those in Lucy's life are believable as well, from a newfound love interest, who shies away from touching her, to the fierce devotion of her fathers, who are ready to fight when Lucy wants to give up. Information about living with HIV is peppered throughout, but Verdi's novel never preaches, instead telling Lucy's story with realism and hope." - Publishers Weekly
"I find it amazing when a book can be both a great read and an eye opener at the same time. What I loved the most about this book, though, is how inspiring it is." - Xpresso Reads
"Verdi forces her readers to face Lucy's dilemma with unflinching honesty and unfaltering compassion. Her complex and relevant story addresses issues that every teen faces. She deftly deals with the controversial topics of sex education in schools and prejudice against people who receive an HIV diagnosis. A gem of a novel." - RT Book Reviews
"Lucy's journey toward accepting her diagnosis is realistically handled, complete with highs and lows." - Kirkus
"My Life After Now is one of those books that wakes you up and demands your attention. It weaves light scenes and heavy scenes and really makes you think, not only about being careful, but also how you live your life in general. " - My Heart Hearts Books
"I applaud Jessica Verdi for writing this book, and hope that it will be a book that will be in every library and classroom. That it can be a book where teens who end up contracting this virus, can turn to this book for some guidance on where to go and who to talk to. I loved that as the story progressed, the author does leave a trail of steps that teens can take should they feel that they may need to be tested. I loved all the raw emotion found in these pages, and how in the end, there is always hope." - Chapter By Chapter
"Lucy is a strong, beautiful heroine. There's no doubt that this book has a heavy subject matter, but Verdi does such a wonderful job of balancing the HIV part with the happier parts of life. Lucy has a life before and after she's infected and that life is wonderful. I love the theater parts and I love how something like that is there for her to come back to even after she has such a hard time. I also appreciated the authenticity in the conclusion where not everything is wrapped up and not everyone ends up happily ever after. I just strongly recommend this book because I know I walked away understanding more about people who have HIV and I felt a little bit like I made a new friend in Lucy. " - In the Best Worlds
"What I loved the most about this book is how inspiring it is. Lucy pushes people away from her at first, but eventually she is able to pull through her situation thanks to the people around her, especially Evan, who becomes an important person in her life. My Life After Now is a wonderful, touching story that portrays Lucy's devastation and her tangled emotions with honesty. The book is about acceptance and learning to live your life with your illness. It brings every single perspective of a life changes after a positive HIV test" - Imaginary Reads
"This book was crazy good is so many ways . . .What I love about Jessica's writing is she keeps it real. Real reactions. Real misunderstandings. Real fears shown by uninfected people . . .Cancer is a killer, but so is HIV/AIDS. It just doesn't get as much air time. That is why I would LOVE beyond LOVE to see this book saturating schools, being a part of their reading plan. I think it would save lives." - Novels on the Run
"My Life After Now is a remarkable and beautifully written story that brings a lot of awareness to teenagers about HIV. Jessica Verdi's work is up their with the likes of Janet Gutler - who also brings a lot of awareness out through her writing. " - Book Passion for Life
Read an Excerpt
Back to Before
The drama club homeroom was buzzing with post-summer chatter, but I didn't look up from my copy of Romeo and Juliet. Auditions were this afternoon, and there was no such thing as being too prepared.
I closed the play and ran through the monologue by memory. "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" I whispered to myself, my long hair hanging like blackout curtains around my face. I got so into it that it wasn't until I got to the part about it is not hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man that I realized I was no longer whispering. I giggled and looked around quickly, embarrassed. But the only person who seemed to be paying me any attention was Ty. My beautiful, talented boyfriend.
"What part of a man might you be referring to, my dear Juliet?" he teased, a dark eyebrow raised.
"Why, the ears, of course," I said, all innocence. He laughed and put an arm around me. I snuggled into him and promptly turned my attention back to my work.
Ty was a senior, the president of the drama club, and one of the club's few straight male members. He'd been the leading man in every Eleanor Drama production for the past three years, and the leading man in my life for the past year and a half. We were each other's firsts-when it came to pretty much everything. I'd never even kissed a boy offstage before Ty.
Andre, our director, called the homeroom to attention. "Good morning, all you gorgeous thespians!" he said, clasping his hands together dramatically. Andre spent what he called his "sexy years"-aka the 1980s-in the New York theater scene. Eight shows a week for five years, he wore the now-iconic jazzercise unitard and striped face makeup in Cats. But it wasn't until after his five-performance run in the chorus of the ill-fated Carrie that he quit and shifted his attention to directing. "So many new faces, so much fresh talent," he said with an approving nod. "Welcome to Eleanor Drama, everyone!"
I glanced around the room. Andre was right-there were a lot of new people in the club this year. And anyone who'd watched the local news or picked up a newspaper at all in the last month knew why.
What happened was, three towns over from my hometown of Eleanor Falls, some moronic nineteen-year-old on the five-year plan thought it would be hilarious to plant a homemade bomb in his high school gym. It went off at three a.m. in the middle of August, so no one was hurt, but Brighton High was officially closed. Which left the school's administration scrambling to place their eighteen hundred high school students before the start of the school year. The athletes were sent to the districts with the best sports programs, the science kids went to the schools with the nicest lab facilities, and the drama and music kids came here. Eleanor Senior High.
Eleanor's performing arts department was well known across the lower half of New York State. Our state-of-the-art auditorium was often compared to a Broadway theater, and our drama program produced fifteen alumni in the last twelve years who had gone on to Juilliard.
The only problem was the new kids included Elyse St. James. The world's most loathsome, repellent, horrid excuse for a-
"Lucy, why don't you go next?" Andre said to me, snapping me out of my reverie. We were doing dumb introductions, and it was my turn.
"Hi, everyone," I said. "I'm Lucy Moore, I'm a junior, and my favorite show is Rent."
My lifelong best friends Courtney and Max named their favorite shows as Pygmalion and The Rocky Horror Show, respectively, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about them, and Ty quoted Twelve Angry Men as his. Apart from the five Brighton transfers, the new additions included the three lucky freshmen who'd actually made it past Andre's rigorous audition process and a senior named Evan who'd just moved here from California.
And then it was her turn. Elyse and I had competed for the female leads in every Proscenium Pines theater camp summer production since fifth grade. She was one of those musical theater princesses you see at auditions in the city who show up with rollers in their hair and wear character shoes with their dresses even if it's a nondancing audition.
Oh, and Elyse St. James was not her real name. Well, I guess it was now, since she'd had it legally changed, but when I first met "Elyse," her name was Ambrosia Burris. Yes. Seriously.
And let's just say her name wasn't the only "augmented" thing about her.
"Hello, I'm Elyse St. James," she trilled. "I'm so excited to be starting my junior year at Eleanor-I've wanted to be part of this drama program for a long time." She flashed Andre a kiss-up smile with unnaturally pink, glossed lips. "Oh, and my favorite play of all time"-she looked straight at me when she said this next part-"is Romeo and Juliet. I'm really looking forward to this afternoon's audition."
"That's great, Elyse. I'm sure you'll make a really great Nurse," I replied sweetly.
She shot me daggers from her perfectly lined eyes.
"Let the games begin," Max muttered under his breath.
• • •
Two days later, the cast list was posted, as follows:
Romeo: Ty Parker
Juliet: Elyse St. James
Nurse: Kelly Ortiz
Capulet: Max Perry
Lady Capulet: Courtney Chen
Montague: Christopher Mendoza
Lady Montague: Bianca Elizabeth Glover
Mercutio: Lucy Moore
Tybalt: Evan Davis
Benvolio: Nathan Pittman-Briggs
Prince Escalus: Isaac Stein
Count Paris: Dominick Ellison
Friar Laurence: Violet Patel
Ensemble (from which the roles of Chorus, Peter, Sampson, Petruchio, Gregory, Abraham, Balthasar, Friar John, and the Apothecary, among others, are to be cast): Jonathan Poole, Andrea Wong, Stephanie Gilmore, Marti Espinoza, Stephen Larson
My eyes were playing tricks on me.
I closed them, rubbed my lids, opened them again. The list hadn't changed.
But that role was mine. Andre had promised. Okay, maybe he hadn't promised, but he'd sure hinted a hell of a lot. I mean, what else was the phrase, "I chose this play with you in mind, Lucy," accompanied by a wink and smile, supposed to mean?
I looked around, panicked, for Ty. I needed him-he would make it all make sense. But I didn't see him anywhere, and the reality of the casting was sinking in fast.
My mouth had gone dry and my legs were beginning to tremble. Courtney and Max shared a worried glance and quickly guided me into the girls' bathroom. That's when I really broke down.
"I hate her! That fake, stupid cow! Why did she have to come here? She's ruining everything!"
My friends just sat on the cold tile floor beside me and held my hands and rubbed my back, letting me get it all out. I had a sudden flash of the last time they'd comforted me like this, three years ago-but the memory was interrupted when a cluster of freshman girls walked into the restroom. They stopped when they saw us.
"Hey, you're not supposed to be in here," one girl whined to Max.
"Like I care about your girly business," he said, rolling his eyes.
The girl eyed his sassy wax-molded hair and his green slim-fit cardigan over his Lady Gaga t-shirt, and her face clicked with understanding. Then she pointed to me. "So what's the matter with her, anyway?"
"Don't worry about it," Max said.
The girls stared at me, still going to pieces, a second more. Then they just shrugged and left.
"Guess they didn't have to pee after all," Max muttered, and brushed my hair away from my face.
When my sobs had died down to a whimper, Courtney spoke. "Lucy, sweetie, the read-through is going to start in a couple minutes. You gonna go?"
I looked at her and then at Max. They smiled unsurely back at me. I knew them well: they wanted to be supportive but were also ready to get the hell out of the bathroom and to rehearsal. Suddenly I felt bad; I couldn't keep them in here any longer. So I nodded, stood on shaky legs, and splashed cool water on my face. "Sorry, guys," I said, starting to feel a little embarrassed by my reaction.
"It's okay. We think Elyse is a fake, stupid cow too."
I managed a tiny laugh. Max always knew what to say to make me feel better.
"I know you probably don't want to hear this," Courtney said as we walked to rehearsal, "but Mercutio is a pretty awesome role. You're going to rock it."
I sighed. I usually loved that Andre was all about the nontraditional casting. And Mercutio really was a great part. But I'd had my heart set on Juliet.
The second we entered the auditorium, Andre pulled me aside. In the darkness of the unlit house, slumped in the very last row of seats, I only half listened to his explanation. He fed me some obviously rehearsed crap about wanting to give me a role that would challenge me, and how he gave Elyse the lead because it was a safe part, and she was a safe actor. It was all total BS, of course.
"Whatever, Andre. Just admit that you gave her the role because you thought she would do a better job than I would."
Silence. Andre stared straight ahead, his unfocused gaze resting on the cast doing warm-up exercises up on the stage.
"Please," I said.
Andre sighed. "She gave a great audition..."
"Just say it." I didn't know why, but I needed to hear the words.
"Okay, fine." He twisted his fingers around each other uneasily. "I gave her the role because I thought she would do a better job than you."
And there it was. The honest truth. For all my hard work and preparation, I still wasn't good enough.
Don't get me wrong-I knew that I wasn't going to get every role I ever auditioned for. I'd even lost roles to Elyse before, at theater camp. But this was different. This was my school, my drama club, my life. I'd always been the star of my own little corner of the world-landing all the best parts since freshman year, getting straight As even in my advanced classes, finding out that the first guy I ever really liked actually liked me back. But then Elyse came along, and in one fell swoop things suddenly weren't so easy anymore.
And that was only my first problem.
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