My Life After Now
by Jessica Verdi
Expected Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Obtained Via: Bought
Format Read In: Kindle book
View at the Traffic light:
Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it’s all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.
And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family?
Now her life is completely different…every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.
I never thought a book that used the phrase “mega bad” in the official synopsis would have the ability to be so poignant, but My Life After Now certainly was. At the beginning of the book, we meet Lucy in the midst of a bad week when she’s clearly at the end of her rope. Her character is at her absolute worst–which is not to say that Lucy is insufferable or a bad person, but that when My Life After Now opens, the readers quickly see Lucy’s flaws before we see most of her virtues. In the span of a few chapters, her bad week pushes her to behave uncharacteristically, a road that eventually leads to her being diagnosed as being HIV+.
Lucy is stunned. She’s been responsible in this regard all her life until that one time, that one night, and suddenly everything changes for her. Most of My Life After Now is Lucy learning more about her condition, trying to find support, and how her new HIV+ status affects her relationships–all of them, with her friends, family, mother, and students, even though most of them don’t know what’s happened to Lucy.
The character development in My Life After Now was stellar. Seriously, probably some of the best contemporary character development that I’ve read. At the beginning of the book, Lucy is a little annoying, a little hasty, but a little endearing–in other words, fairly normal. As My Life After Now progresses, we see Lucy make a lot of choices–most of them not good ones(and not just what leads her to be HIV positive in the first place, but also how she reacts after that). Slowly, though, she comes around. She learns to embrace her life again. She seeks to make amends. She tempers her hasty reactions. She grows, in the way all characters are suppose to, but few that I’ve read have as much natural growth as Lucy. By the end, I was cheering for Lucy SO HARD. Some things had gone terribly, terribly wrong in her life, but I kept hoping everything would go right from then on.
Despite the fact there’s quite a few “issue” YA books, I don’t know if I’ve ever read one that explored this particular issue, except for the books I read in middle school that were written in a very agenda-heavy way. My Life After Now did a good job of exploring this issue for Lucy in a way that felt more exploratory than judgmental. There’s so much stigma and false information about HIV and AIDs and Verdi addressed so many of them. Some hurt my heart a bit–like when a boy pulled away from Lucy’s touch, even though he logically knew that’s not how HIV spreads.
I also have to praise Verdi for the family element included in My Life After Now. Lucy’s dads lived through the 1980s as gay men–they remember the scare and the misinformation and having to bury some of their friends. Their reactions to Lucy’s condition is telling, but in a sweet way. They are so supportive of Lucy–in everything she does, really–that I couldn’t help but to smile. It was refreshing to see parents be so front and center in a YA, especially considering the issues that My Life After Now dealt with. I also loved some of the other details in Lucy’s life–she has great friends, even though she pushes them away at first, and her love for theater and acting was a pleasant addition amidst some of the pain.
I’m normally not a fan of issue books, but My Life After Now never felt patronizing or overtly simplistic. Lucy’s condition and progress were heart-breaking at times, but it was done in such a wonderful way. The character development is this novel was phenomenal, and all the details–Lucy’s great parents, the presence of the theater club, Lucy’s friends–really took it to the next level for me. 5/5 cupcakes.