My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this book in the mail approximately...14 hours ago, as I sit down to write this review. In those 14 hours, I ate dinner, did some light home repairs, and slept through the night. Pretty much the only other thing I did was read this book.
First of all, I should mention that this book wasn't one I bought. I won it in a giveaway, with a bunch of other books. It wasn't on my Goodreads TBR, and I hadn't really heard much about it. But as soon as I read the back cover, I had to jump in and check it out. Read for yourself:
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 was so intrigued--what did Lucy do? And what happened to her because of it? I don't want to spoil anything, so all I'll say is that yes, it is actually as big a deal as the cover copy makes it sound, but this isn't just an Issue Book. Lucy's story is complex and layered, with the Big Consequences of her mistake intertwined around her passion for acting, her complicated family situation (although, points for two awesome parents!), and her friends and love interests. All of those things are important to Lucy and to the reader, and the story feels balanced and relatable.
Oh--and the theatre stuff! I love a high school theatre book that gets it right, and this one totally does. From the chapter titles alone--all named after songs from musical theatre--it's clear that Jessica Verdi has theatre nerd cred. But all of it, really--it just felt right. I think my favorite detail was a scene in which Lucy returns to school after a long absence, and when she walks into rehearsal the whole cast just stares at her for a minute. She's certain they've discovered her secret--but it turns out they just want to know what could POSSIBLY have kept her out of rehearsal for so long! What it boils down to is that Verdi's characters take their art seriously, and while this high school's program runs differently than mine did, that essential piece is the same. For these kids, it's not just "the school play." It's a way of life, and for many of them, a possible career. That definitely pulled me in very quickly.
And--you may want to stop reading now if you're worried about guessing spoilers, although I'll try to say this as spoiler-free-ly as possible--I give Jessica Verdi all KINDS of respect for writing a book that will make something that is often portrayed as a distant or outdated threat feel real and, frankly, as scary as it should feel. But I give her about a hundred times more respect for doing it in a way that doesn't try to intimidate readers, or scare them out of living their lives. I hope this book finds a wide readership because it's both a great story, and an important one.
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Seriously, this is just one of those books that feels special. One of those books that I want everyone to read. And because of that...I'm giving away a copy!
I mentioned in the review that I won this in a giveaway. It wasn't just any giveaway: it was the Lucky 13s Kidlit Authors for Oklahoma Disaster Relief giveaway. To enter, you had to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross. I thought it was a really awesome way to remind people to donate, and I gave the $10 without thinking much of it. But then I won and I've been getting these awesome, awesome books in the mail, and now I want to do something more. So:
1) You don't have to make a donation in order to enter my giveaway, but if you do, then you get ten extra entries. I'm not going to set a mandatory dollar amount, and I'm going to give you three choices of where to donate:
- Donors Choose--because arts education is as vital to Lucy and her friends as it was to me when I was in high school and to my students now.
- Love Heals--because young people need information and support as they begin to make choices that can have long-ranging impacts on their own health.
- The Red Cross--because they do good work in all kinds of situations, and the support they offer lasts beyond the first wave of headlines about any disaster.
2) I will donate $20 to the whichever of those three organizations the winner chooses.
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