Young adult read focuses on the “after”, My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

lifeafternowI thought My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi would be important to read because there are so few young adult books that acknowledge HIV/AIDS as an ongoing health epidemic in contemporary North America. I expected it might be dry, solely issue-driven, alarmist, or full of stereotypes and misconceptions. I was wrong. While this book’s inclusion of the topic is important, it is also an incredibly well-written work of contemporary young adult literature. The book is occasionally heart-rending without resorting to melodrama, and it is often soul-healing with genuine depictions of generous love and support. Teenage life goes on, no matter what else happens, and so taking part in the school play, romantic entanglements, and changing friendships remain part of story. Instead of the medical diagnosis taking centre stage, characters and their relationships remain in focus.
The main character is a teenage girl named Lucy who contracts HIV. We’re with her as she makes the decisions that put her into a high-risk situation. We’re with her when she finds out her status, as she tries to comprehend the ways her life has so significantly changed, and as she navigates the new and difficult world of disclosing to family and friends and learning to advocate for herself. There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but Lucy’s developing resilience makes it clear that while her life will never be as it was, her status will not define her.
I’m still looking for a contemporary YA novel about a HIV-positive gay character, one that treats the subject with the gravity it deserves will retaining the ultimately optimistic outlook found in My Life After Now. Sadly, this population group continues to be the most heavily affected by and vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and should be represented in YA literature. Nonetheless, Verdi’s book succeeds as both an enjoyable read for contemporary young adult literature fans and a powerful and important addition to YA literature addressing this ongoing health concern.

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