My Life After Nowby Jessica Verdi
Fans of Glee and Rent will love this story of unflinching honesty and unfaltering compassion.
The last thing Lucy ever expected was to end up as another teen statistic.
Lucy had a plan: become a Broadway star, start a life with her leading man Ty, make her family proud. But in a matter of days, Lucy loses Ty, her starring/strong>/em>/em>
Fans of Glee and Rent will love this story of unflinching honesty and unfaltering compassion.
The last thing Lucy ever expected was to end up as another teen statistic.
Lucy had a plan: become a Broadway star, start a life with her leading man Ty, make her family proud. But in a matter of days, Lucy loses Ty, her starring role, and her parents drop a bomb she never saw coming.
Suddenly, it's all too muchshe wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.
And now her life will never be the same. What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family? Off script and without the comforts of her simple high school problems, Lucy must figure out how to live, and even embrace, her new life.
Now...every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.
Readers' Group Discussion Guide and Resource List included.
"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
"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
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.
Meet the Author
Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. Visit her at www.jessicaverdi.com and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.
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My Life After Now is a wonderful, heartbreaking story about a normal teenage girl who makes one bad choice that changes of her life forever. One night, one mistake, fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, guilt, disappointment, depression, and grief, all these emotions overwhelm her. Everything changes, centering around this one fact, as Lucy comes to terms with and learns how to live with her life after now. This is such a tragic story. Lucy is really a good girl and not one to get into trouble. She know about safe sex, and one night of losing her inhibitions to alcohol results in something totally out of character for Lucy. Her story is devastating. My heart broke with her as she suffered through the denial, fear of having the disease, and sinks into a deep depression feeling like she can't talk about it with anyone. When she does finally open to someone, their reaction to her and her news sends her into an even deeper depression. Finally, her dads decide it is time for intervention and she breaks down and tells them everything. My Life After Now chronicles Lucy's journey into the place of acceptance, taking one day at a time, addressing the stigma she faces associated with the disease, the fear of people knowing, the ignorance surrounding it, and the love and support from friends and family, and support groups with people in similar situations, that combined can make life worth living again. Jessica Verdi has done an outstanding job in writing My Life After Now, and has obviously done a great deal of research on the subject of HIV and AIDS. I especially liked how the author honed in on the fact that in recent years education about the disease, the way it's transmitted, the treatment options, etc., has really diminished when compared to the education and awareness that took place even a decade ago, highlighting the need for continued education on the subject, especially for those in high school. The story itself allows you to connect with Lucy and experience through her character, what it's like to find out this has happened to you. The book is extremely well written. The author has also incorporated much needed information regarding the importance of treatment, the emotional issues surrounding the disease, awareness about the disease and modes of transmission, and the need for support both physically and emotionally. The story also provides hope, showing that people with this disease can still have a life, find love, and move forward. Jessica Verdi even provides a discussion guide regarding the subject to go along with the book, as well as providing further resource information links regarding the disease and its treatment. My Life After Now is not only an excellent novel, it is a great teaching tool and I most definitely recommend it.
This book was so touching and I just couldn't put it down. Lucy's battle with HIV/AIDS was definitely sad, and I was constantly crying, but was also very inspirational. Even when she wanted to give up, to stop fighting, she didn't. She got the help she needed from Roxie, her parents, her friends, and the rest of the group. My Life After Now was a great read and I highly recommend
meant for teenagers
Found myself in tears several times. A must-read!
Its so detailed i just cant stay away from it! The problems, romance are just breath taking and leaving me wanting more. I definetly recommend
I wanted to read this book cause I never read anything like this before. Raw and realistic, this book took me on a journey I never thought I take. 1. Plot. This book is very good in the plot. The reader is introduced to a vibrant who has her whole life ahead of her. You see her happy and then BAM. One mistake changes it all. 2. Characters. There are several characters who helped Lucy. They supported her and didn’t turn away from her. They all got educated in what to do and helped Lucy fight. 3. HIV. I think since this book is based on it, the facts and the statistics on the disease is good. It helps the reader become much more aware and educated. It;s broken down easily that any reader who is reading the book would understand. 4. Anxiety. I don’t know why but this book made my stomach hurt. Not that it was bad, it was a great read. Don’t get me wrong, but reading about such a sensitive subject and watching a young girl spiral down that road gave me enough anxiety for the week. 5. Awareness. One thing this book does is create awareness in the reader. I think books like this one is good for young readers to read cause it helps them understand more. Especially since you can read this story and not feel confused but come out educated. This is touching story that I think all can read. It can happen to anyone at anytime. Compelling and touching, My Life After Now depicts a life changed by a status. Tackling a subjects and bring it to light, My Life After Now is awesome!
This should be required reading for Sex Ed. The problem is - our kids are becoming sexually active younger and younger. As parents we should welcome the help from schools. Instead we fight to stop it. Perhaps it should be REQUIRED reading for parents! As soon as our children enter 6th grade and pray that even that age is early enough.
I was amazed at how good this book was. It was so well written and heartbreaking yet so inspiring. Good read!!!
You can read this and lots of other reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews. I'll admit that I knew what the story was about before I decided to read this book. The blurb is vague, though, so you can fully go into this book without spoiling anything for yourself (if you haven't read any of the other spoiler filled reviews, that is). My review will contain the not-so-secret spoiler so avoid it if you're looking to read My Life After Now without knowing beforehand. SPOILERS: My Life After Now is a story about a teenage girl contracting HIV. Lucy has a pretty idealistic life, but one bad week leads to a life-altering decision. One simple mistake. And that's all it takes. That is what makes this book stand out for me. It shows that something like HIV doesn't care who you are, how pretty you are, how many good choices you make, or anything else about you. One mistake can forever change your life (and the lives of the people you care about). This is something that people (especially teenagers) need to know. It can, in fact, happen to you. No one is invincible. My Life After Now is a powerful, yet simple story. HIV is something that's not talked about enough. This needs to change. I believe that this book is a realistic picture of what can happen to someone that contracts HIV at such a young age. I certainly believe this book could be a way for someone to open up a dialogue with their child about not only HIV, but safe sex in general. So, why my 4 start rating? There's a couple of reasons. One, the ending was a bit too predictable. Two (and the biggest reason!), I didn't particularly like how a situation was handled. Lucy has sex with Ty (her ex) while being fully aware of her positive status without telling him. After providing such a strong message, I felt very disappointed that this particular event (no matter how low the risk of transmission was) happened with absolutely no consequences. After all, the message of this book is that one small decision can change your life. END SPOILERS For those that don't want the spoilers, I do recommend this book. It has an important message, but doesn't come off as preachy or condescending.
I felt that this book shouldve been longer, and couldve been a lot deeper for such an intense topic. The story seemed a tad bit rushed. But overall a good read
My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi touches base on a subject that I don’t believe really gets enough light in Young Adult reads…HIV. My Life After Now follows the events in the life of main character, Lucy, where one little mistake ends up having huge ramifications, and shows how such a young girl struggles with the fact that she has contracted HIV and the steps she takes to accept the new cards that have been dealt for her. Lucy had it all. A popular boyfriend who always ends up being with her as the leading man in school productions, a loving family, and two best friends who have been with her through thick and thin. But this year, things turn out different. Lucy’s arch nemesis has ended up at her school, and has snagged the leading role of Juliet in this year’s production of Romeo & Juliet…and her boyfriend ends up with the role of Romeo…which inevitably has the two of them re-enacting more than just “scenes” in the play. And how does Lucy find out about Ty’s transgressions? Via Facebook of course… Lucy’s never present mother, Lisa, shows up at her doorstep and her dads have welcomed her into their home, which is something that Lucy just can’t accept. With a history of Lisa coming and going and coming and going…Lucy just can’t handle the fact that Lisa is now “back on” in her life. So how does Lucy deal with all these negatives that have popped up in her life all of a sudden? With a night of partying at a club and losing herself. When Lucy captures the attention of the lead singer of a rock band performing at the club she and her friends have decided to party at, Lucy ends up with more than just a hangover and a one night stand… Holy drama people. When you think things just can’t possibly get any worse for Lucy, she ends up getting HIV. And it was heartbreaking to watch how she tries to deal with this new information. She pushes her friends away, she locks herself away from her family…basically closing up into herself. I can’t even imagine how I would handle this kind of news and then have to attempt to try and deal with it on my own. And although Lucy has all the backing of fantastic parents and friends, she pushes them away…and when Lucy finally breaks the news to her parents…omg did I ever feel all the emotion from the words that were found in these pages. Author, Jessica Verdi, does an amazing job bringing to light the subject HIV. I agree whole heartedly with a section in the book that states that kids now a days are, yes, taught (even at very early ages) about sex. And most importantly, about the importance of safe sex. But it just stops there. It doesn’t really go into what these kids should do if they do end up contracting an STD or HIV…where they should go? Who they can speak to? It was really interesting to see the various age groups that are portrayed in My Life After Now, and it broke my heart to hear the different stories in which these individuals’ loved ones and friends turned from them, or would say or do something that completely brought to light the stigma of HIV/AIDS and how uneducated people can be and still are about how you can actually contract this virus. 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.
Lucy just wants to act, and when she loses out on a part that she had her heart set on, it marks the start of when Lucy's life takes a drastic change. In the middle of all that change, Lucy wants to get out of her head, stop thinking, and just start acting out. She puts on a smile on the outside but on the inside she couldn't feel more like crying if she tried. One night and one stupid decision is all it takes for Lucy's problems to go from bad to worse. One mistake and her life is forever change. At first Lucy tries to forget that it happened, but she can't really escape reality or the consequences of that night. At first, I started reading My Life After Now with absolutely no expectation, the cover was gorgeous but it was Jessica Verdi's debut and I couldn't really judge it on her past work. But there is a scene after Lucy runs off to New York City to escape her problems at home where I literally got so afraid, and I had goosebumps. I didn't know how heavy the book was going to get, but I realized this book was taking a darker path than I had originally had anticipated, and I knew that something really bad was about to happen. I couldn't stop reading, and then when I learned of the consequences from Lucy's one night, one stupid decision, I literally started to bawl, because that's life, you can be a good girl for 16 plus years and one decision can ruin it all. I think that's the scariest part of My Life After Now, that it's so realistic and that's scary. For me, it's scarier than monsters and stuff like that. Lucy is just your average girl, and the consequences of one night will stay with her forever. So she tries to keep it a secret for as long as she can, and act like everything is normal, but it's not. She alienates the people in her life until she's forced to face the truth. 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.
Sixteen-year-old Lucy had it all. Great friends, the perfect boyfriend, loving parents, an easy time at school. Until her rival Elyse steals the role of Juliet out from under her nose...and then steals her boyfriend, too. On top of that, Lucy's birthmother has returned and interrupted everyone's lives. Desperate to forget her problems, Lucy and her friends head out to NYC to blow off some steam. The next morning, Lucy wakes up with a wicked hangover..in someone else's bed. She puts it behind her and moves on, getting over her ex and meeting someone new. But her past comes back to haunt her in a big way when she discovers that she's contracted HIV, and goes from having the world at her feet to a lifetime of uncertainty. The subject of HIV and AIDS is treated tenderly; Lucy goes through so much on her journey and readers will want to wrap her up in a big hug. This isn't a preachy book, but it gives a lot of information in ways that feel natural. There's also a strong look at the power of support, from Lucy's two dads who love her despite everything to the people she meets at group meetings. Her relationship with her friends changes and evolves through the various stages of her journey, and Lucy learns that she can still embrace life despite having HIV. She comes out stronger due to the trials of having to grow up way too fast. Everything feels realistic and on point in a balanced way, resulting in an emotional read. MY LIFE AFTER NOW is the type of book that teachers should buy for their classroom libraries, the kind that should be read in Health Class, the sort that needs to make its way into the hands of teenagers. It's poised to join the ranks of hard-hitting classics such as GO ASK ALICE and SPEAK. In today's Health Classes, we have sex ed. units revolving around abstinence and pregnancy and the proper use of condoms. There's not much to be said after the fact. If the worst happens, will students know what to do or who to go to? We talk about before in the classroom, not about after. Many teenagers caught in this situation are scared and don't know who to turn to. They might not have the amazing support system that Lucy does. Or maybe they do, but they're too scared to find out...which will only harm them in the long run. We talk to kids about sex and pregnancy, but we need to be more open about other matters as well. MY LIFE AFTER NOW is an important read in the genre that shouldn't be overlooked.
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