PW #308: Young Adult Contemporary: LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Katherine Fleet

Mentee Name: Kacey Vanderkarr

Title: LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY

Category: Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary

Word Count: 64,000

Pitch:

Hudson has the same disease that’s killing his brother. He believes suicide will save everyone more pain, but his sacrifice is interrupted by an equally suicidal girl. The strangers share one soul-baring night of firsts and lasts, leaving Hudson to decide: Is life with a deadline still worth living? MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES meets TEACH ME TO FORGET.

Excerpt:

Everyone has avoided the words, but I know exactly what this is: assisted suicide. Across the kitchen table, Mom rubs the exhaustion-bruised skin beneath her eyes, smearing makeup she applied for the producer’s visit. The slick men from Docs and Documentaries didn’t ask for much. Remove Coop’s vent. Let us film his death.

Mom pushes the contract close to me until the jumbled letters form words. Huntington’s Disease. Life support. Fundraiser. Coop signed his Advance Directive two years ago, but it feels like two minutes. Even if he hangs on for another year, it’ll never be long enough.

“I can’t kill him.” I won’t cry, but the hoarseness in my voice gives me away. Since I found out about the documentary, I’ve been practicing in the mirror, schooling my emotions into nothingness. I made mental lists of acceptable and unacceptable facial expressions. I can’t imagine which one I’ll use if I allow the camera to immortalize Coop’s final breath and my final goodbye.

“This is what he wants.” Mom folds her hands and stares at the places they connect. Disgust rises in my chest. Coop deserves better than her calm. He deserves a fight. “The producers will cancel the fundraiser if we don’t film.”

“Oh, okay then. As long as we get paid.”

“Hudson…”

“I won’t kill him.”

“It’s not—” She breaks off short of saying killing. “His Advance Directive is clear. That’s why the terminally ill have them.”

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