YA of the Week: ‘My Life After Now’ by Jessica Verdi
“I’m so thrilled to get to talk a bit about my new young adult novel My Life After Now, as the book deals with a subject that affects us all but has gone largely ignored in YA literature thus far – HIV. My Life After Now is the story of Lucy Moore, a sixteen-year-old aspiring theater star who has a series of really bad days and decides she needs to vacate her life for a night. So she goes out drinking with her two best friends and ends up making a pretty huge mistake – she goes home with a man she just met. One month later, Lucy learns she is HIV-positive.
HIV/AIDS education has always been important to me – as a young child, I had a family member who died from AIDS, but no one really explained to me what that meant. My parents, like so many others, felt HIV/AIDS was an “adult” issue and therefore not something to worry their children with. But children understand more than I think we give them credit for sometimes. They have questions, so why not give them answers?
And I believe it’s especially important right now to talk about HIV/AIDS with our children because young people (ages 13-29) have accounted for nearly 40 percent of all new HIV cases in the U.S. in recent years. And that number is only increasing.
As a high schooler in the late nineties, I joined an organization called STARS (Students Teaching AIDS Reduction Strategies). We visited different schools and opened up the dialogue about HIV/AIDS – from talking with kindergartners about not touching other people’s blood, all the way up through discussing safe sex with high school seniors. I like to think that just that small introduction to the HIV/AIDS conversation helped those students make better choices in their own lives.
Over the past ten years or so, we as a society haven’t been talking about HIV/AIDS as much as we used to, probably because, thanks to medication, people aren’t dying from it as frequently. But the fact is, the contraction rate has not slowed down, and there is still no cure. When a close friend of mine tested positive, I knew I wanted to do something to help get the conversation going again. Thus My Life After Now was born.
There is hope, though – recently a two-year-old in Mississippi who was born with HIV was deemed “functionally cured” of the virus after being put on an aggressive treatment plan shortly after birth. But until all people, young and old alike, are rid of this disease, the best way to combat it is to keep our children educated, and stopping it before it starts. I truly believe understanding the realities of the virus – and debunking the myths – is half the battle.
Though My Life After Now is fiction (complete with a romance!), there is some great information included in the back of the book for teens, including an HIV/AIDS facts sheet and a list of testing and counseling resources. There is also a reader discussion guide, which I hope will help spark many lively discussions about the book and its subject matter.Add a Comment