My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi. April 2, 2013. Sourcebooks Fire. 305 pages. Teen and up.
Lucy seems to have everything going for her--a good relationship with her dads, a promising talent for acting, two best friends, a great boyfriend--and dreams of starring on Broadway someday.
Then, it suddenly starts to unravel. First, she loses the lead in the school play to Elyse, her former nemesis from summer camp. Then, her biological mother, who has never been part of her life and has substance abuse issues, suddenly shows up again. Finally, her boyfriend Ty cheats on her with, and leaves her for, Elyse.
Needing to blow of steam and escape her problems, Lucy and her two friends get fake ID's and go to a club in the city. Once there, they all have too much to drink and Lucy manages to catch the eye of one the band members performing. The next thing she knows is that she wakes up naked in a stranger's bed the next morning with no memory of what happened. Ashamed, she sneaks out and makes her way to her friend's house and tries to put the incident behind her.
As time passes, Lucy finds that she actually enjoys the role she was given in the play, and doesn't miss Ty anymore. She develops a friendship with Evan, another actor she has several scenes with, that blossoms into a romance. Just when she is feeling good about things again, she suddenly recalls the events of that one night and realizes she had unprotected sex with a stranger, an IV drug user. What she finds out after that leaves her devastated and scared, and very alone.
Overall this is a good book, and it brings attention to a serious issue that seems to have been forgotten but not gone. In another lifetime I worked in HIV research in the early-ish years, right at the time Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. Then, there was lots of discussion, publicity, education, and community efforts at prevention of HIV, but in recent years there's been hardly any mention of it and this generation of teens is dangerously uninformed. So I give lots of kuddos to Jessica Verdi for shining a light on it again, and for including some basic information, as well as discussion questions.
The story is pretty well-paced and believable for the most part; how many times do young women get drunk at bars or parties and do things they wouldn't normally do? Lucy is a fairly believable character, though her being a performer and having two dads made me want to compare her to Rachel on the TV show "Glee". I certainly sympathized with her having to deal with so many things going wrong at once, and for having to deal with the serious, life-altering consequences of one lapse in judgment.
I liked that she was responsible enough to get herself tested for STD's after she remembered having unprotected sex. But there were other things about the story that really bothered me. First, was Lucy having sex with her ex-boyfriend Ty AFTER she knew she had HIV. Yes, the risk of female-to-male sexual transmission is very low even without protection, and they did use a condom. But Ty did not know she had the HIV virus, and she had no right to make that decision for him and potentially put him at risk, no matter how big a douche-bag he was. And then she hardly felt bad about it, and just wanted to gloss over it like it was nothing.
Then, when she accidentally got cut at rehearsal and got her blood everywhere, Evan put himself at risk by getting her blood on him. Then on top of that, they put everyone else at risk by covering up her status and not telling anyone or calling 911, instead just telling her friends to clean up the blood. Yes, Evan told them to wear gloves, use bleach and be careful, but he didn't tell them why. I wish the author had not had it happen that way, or at least made a strong point of how wrong that was.
I would recommend this book for all teens, as the subject is important, and I think it would be great for a class or book club selection, and would be good to pair with some non-fiction research for a joint Language Arts/Biology project. It would probably appeal most to teens who like realistic fiction dealing with important issues that are very relevant to all teens.
Other Books By This Author
Jessica Verdi has written two other YA novels, previously reviewed on this blog: The Summer I Wasn't Me and What You Left Behind.