Last week we announced that Jennifer Farwell’sSeven Weeks to Forever is our Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of our student reviews and of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category:
Cassidy Jordan knows she’ll die a few weeks after her eighteenth birthday, and she can’t wait. This is her second time here, and she knows what’s waiting for her in The Life-After — the place most mistakenly call “the afterlife.” Getting back there is supposed to be easy: she just has to find nineteen-year-old Riley Davis and help him get his life on track. But doing that isn’t easy at all.
By the time Cassidy finds Riley, she has only seven weeks to help him before her time is up. Riley will die too young if she fails, and she’ll never see The Life-After or have another chance at life again. But no one told her helping Riley would mean dating him; she hasn’t dated anyone since the love of her first life caused her death the last time she turned eighteen. And no one warned her she’d cross paths with Selena Jensen, her ex-best-friend who hasn’t forgotten why their friendship ended and is protective of Riley. Then there’s Cassidy’s family, who thinks she’s a normal girl headed to Harvard in the fall. When her aunt discovers that’s not the plan, she shows up to try and drag Cassidy from L.A. to Boston.
Helping Riley is already hard with her aunt and Selena in the way. It’s almost impossible when Cassidy realizes she’s falling for him and is faced with a choice: give Riley the life he’s meant for and leave when it’s time, or give up eternity for the true love she’s never had, knowing Riley will die the same way she did in her first life and that her entire existence could end at any time.
* * *
Enjoy Our Free Excerpt:
I know how I die. I know when, too.
It’s going to happen less than two months from now, a few weeks after my eighteenth birthday and right before my family thinks I’m supposed to start college. My aunt will be devastated. Not because of the death thing, but because she hates wearing black. Plus, me dying means she won’t get to host The Event of the Year to impress all of her friends before sending me off to Harvard. She’s been counting on outdoing Mrs. Jensen, my ex-best-friend Selena’s mother, since my sophomore year. That’s when the Jensens had their big moving-to-L.A. party that robbed my aunt of her Best-Hostess-on-the-Cul-de-Sac title, or so she thinks. I’m pretty sure no one else cares. It was the same night that Selena had it out with me.
My uncle might be sad for a while, but he’ll get over it. He’s a surgeon. I’ve never seen him cry.
I’m not sick or anything, and I’m not planning my end. I just know what’s going to happen. Just like I knew my parents wouldn’t be coming home that afternoon when I was six, and that the days of Disneyland and ice cream floats would end the second my aunt got ahold of me. And just like I know right now that if the concert I’m at is the last one I’ll go to, I’m going to be mega-pissed. I can’t see anything. Typical.
I’m certain there’s some universal law that if you’re under five-foot-four and standing close to the stage at an outdoor concert, some insanely tall person will come stand right in front of you. It rarely fails. Tonight’s answer to the law is blond and around six feet tall, give or take an inch. He looks to be about my age, which means he should have the decency to at least pretend to be a gentleman and not stand in front of a girl. L.A. boys are the worst, I swear, even though I once thought that no boys could be worse than the brats I went to school with in Boston. I changed my mind last week when some clown at the LAX baggage claim stepped on my foot before pushing me out of the way. And I mean that literally, since he was actually dressed as a clown. Welcome to L.A. and the start of my summer vacation.
The guy in front of me now is cute and all — hot, actually, in that way where I can just tell that most girls would let him get away with almost anything — but I’m not most girls and he’s still in my way. I’d much rather be watching the stage than studying his dumb ironic T-shirt and the back of his sandy-blond head, both of which are annoying me to no end. Buddy, move over.
He’s glued to his phone, though, completely oblivious and texting away. I think for a second, blowing a strand of my chestnut brown hair out of my face. Then I try stepping to the side. My foot lands right on the foot of the girl standing next to me.
“Sorry,” I mumble, retreating. The girl’s lips smile, but her eyes don’t. She has one on me, though, because I’m not smiling. I’m back to staring at this guy’s head. He’s still texting.
I lift my heels off of the ground so I can stand on tiptoe. Just when I can see the band’s singer, an arm shoots up, phone in hand, obstructing my view once more. Great, him again. It figures he’s part of the camera phone fanarazzi. He’s probably live-tweeting the entire show, too.
I have two options here that I can see, other than giving up and moving farther away from the stage to watch the show. I can stay here and fight the urge to kick this guy, or I can try to squeeze in front of him. Maybe I can accidentally connect my foot with his leg on my way by. Option two it is. I square my shoulders and turn my body sideways, then try to wedge myself between him and the girl standing next to him.
He barely glances at me when I bump into him, but the girl fixes me with what I’m sure is her version of a death stare. I force the corners of my lips to turn up into a smile, or at least what I hope passes for one.
“Sorry,” I say. I’m not, but she doesn’t need to know that. “I’m not trying to get in front of you, I just couldn’t see over the guy beside you.”
A knowing look appears on her face. She gets it — she’s even shorter than I am. “No problem,” she replies, taking a step to the side to give me more room.
“Thanks. I’m Cassidy, by the way.” I don’t really want to make friends with her, but I’ve learned that the more polite I am to the people I shove, the less likely I am to get shoved back or punched. She nods and turns her head back to the stage.
I’m elbow-to-elbow with the guy now, and I’m not budging. He takes a step backward after a few minutes pass. It’s about time. I want to tell him that but I keep my mouth shut, quickly scooting over to claim the empty spot so I can give the girl beside me some breathing room. Victory.
Now that I can see the stage, the show is freaking amazing. Lazy Monday is my favorite band. I’ve never seen them play before tonight but I have every album they’ve released and a few bootlegs, and I know the words to all of their songs. I was fifteen the first time I heard one of their songs on the radio in my aunt’s car. It was the only bright spot in my day after being held hostage for back-to-school shopping at a bunch of snooty little boutiques. Turning up the volume on the Lazy Monday song won me the iciest of icy looks and a station change to something classical. The obvious thing to do was download the song when I got home and blast it from my bedroom for the next four months. I doubt my aunt misses my music collection very much now that it’s here with me in L.A., thousands of miles away from her house in Boston. I doubt she misses me much, either.
The universal law of concerts kicks in again during the show’s encore, but that’s usually how it goes. People farther back in the crowd surge forward for their chance to see some band sweat, and some of them try to push past me. There’s no point in fighting this many people so I take a step backward, stumbling when my foot slides on something on the ground. I look down and see somebody’s University of Southern California student card beside my shoe.
I bend over to pick it up, bumping arms with the wall of people around me on the way down and again when I stand back up. The photo on the card tells me it belongs to the guy who was blocking my view at the start of the show. It probably fell out of his pocket one of the seventy-spillion or so times he pulled out his phone. It serves him right to lose it, but I turn around anyway to see if he’s still close by. None of the faces behind me look familiar. I rise up on the balls of my feet to see if he’s been nudged a few rows back but still don’t see him. Oh well, I tried.
I think about dropping the card back on the ground. Something makes me stop and glance at the name printed beside the photo, though. Wait. I bring the card closer to my face, reading it again just to be sure.
Riley Davis. It can’t be. But it figures that it is.
I study the photo, closer this time, looking for any hint that it’s not someone else who just happens to live in the same city and have the same name. It’s him, or at least I think it is. I turn around to search the crowd again, but there’s still no sign of Riley Davis. It’s not lost on me that just a few minutes ago, I would have been more than happy to never see the back of his head again. Now my stomach is sinking because I don’t spot him anywhere.
He can’t disappear. I’ve waited almost eighteen years to find him, even though I didn’t know his name until last week. I was starting to think he didn’t exist since I couldn’t find him on the Internet. I mean, who can’t you find on the Internet? People who don’t exist, that’s who.
He exists, though, and he’s gone. I’d curse, but I’m trying to be better about that since I’m dying soon. Not that swearing would keep me from what comes next, the place most people here call the afterlife. They’re wrong about that, by the way. It’s actually called The Life-After, and the only thing keeping me from getting there is one Mr. Riley Davis. I really don’t have time for him to just up and vanish. He doesn’t have time for it either, but he doesn’t know that. If I don’t find him and help him, he’ll die. I mean, he’ll die at some point anyway since everybody does. It won’t be the right time for him, though, and then he’ll end up just like me and be forced to come back here for a second time. I won’t end up anywhere — not here or The Life-After. I’ll just be gone forever.
Tucking the card in my purse, I push past the sea of people around me who are still trying to get closer to the stage. Riley couldn’t have gotten very far, and I have to find him.
* * *
I pull into the driveway in front of my house just before eleven o’clock. Riley’s student card is still in my purse and he’s still missing, damn him. So much for not cursing. There has to be a way to find him again, even in this city of millions.
“Sleep on it,” I tell myself, pulling the keys from the ignition and getting out of the car.
My footsteps echo in the driveway as I walk up to the front stoop of the house that officially becomes mine on my eighteenth birthday. Not that it will be mine for all that long. I lived in this house once before, until my parents died and I was whisked away to Boston.
Once I’m inside, I kick my shoes into a corner and then head for the kitchen, taking a deep breath as I walk down the hall. I hold it for a moment, trying to clear my mind so I can relax. My breath turns into a yelp on its way out of my lungs.
I’m not alone in my house.
“Way to announce yourself,” I hiss at Noah.
He only smiles, raising his head up from the newspaper that’s scattered across the kitchen table. He’s wearing the same clothes he always does, the brown pinstripe suit and fedora that make him look like he walked straight out of the 1930s and into my house.
Noah is my advisor, assigned to watch over me while I’m here in this life. He was the one to greet me after I died and found myself in The Life-After. My name was Anna Merrick then, and I was a TV star, one of those young Hollywood actresses that the tabloids called an “up-and-comer” and “one to watch.” People recognized me on the street and everything. Dying at eighteen wasn’t part of my big career plan. Stuff happens sometimes.
“You didn’t see the feather I left by the front door?” Noah asks. He takes off his fedora and sets it on the table.
He means an indigo feather, I know. He always leaves one for me to find when he’s about to show up out of nowhere. I must have missed it this time. He calls the feathers a courtesy notice that he’s around, and I call them warnings of visits from my warden. He doesn’t think that’s funny.
“You’re a little late for the housewarming. I’ve already been here for a week.” I lean against the kitchen island, watching him. “You brought gifts, right?”
“I think you found your gift tonight.”
“Riley?” I ask. His mouth quirks up into a smile, and I guess that’s my answer. “Thanks for assigning me some guy I wanted to kick at first sight.”
“It will be good for you,” he replies. Right.
“Broccoli is good for me, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.” He gives me a warning look. “What? I’m a second-timer, not an angel.”
He frowns but doesn’t say anything, and that’s probably because he knows I’m right. If I were an angel, I’d be in The Life-After and free to come and go. I sure wouldn’t be stuck here for a second time. I turn my back to him and walk over to the fridge, catching sight of my reflection in a mirrored magnet that’s stuck to the door. There’s no mistaking the irritation in my sea-blue eyes.
“Want grilled cheese?” I call over my shoulder.
“Only if you’re not cooking.” He chuckles at his own joke.
“Funny.” I open the fridge door and grab cheese slices and a stick of butter from one of the shelves. “Anything you’re here for, other than slinging insults?”
“I just popped in to see how you are. It’s part of the job, you know.”
“It must have slipped my mind.” I walk over to the stove.
He watches me spread butter onto a slice of bread. I know that he can hear what’s on my mind, but he’s waiting for me to say it. The guy just never makes it easy.
“Why didn’t I know that was Riley tonight?” I ask.
“You know it now.” A typical Noah answer. Why I bother asking him questions is beyond me.
“It’s a little late now, don’t you think? He was already gone by the time I figured it out, or did you miss that part?”
“You’ll find him again.” He sounds so calm. It must be nice.
“You realize I have less than two months to do that?” You’d think he would get that we’re cutting it way too close for me to feel good about this, but he just shrugs. Awesome.
“You’ll find him,” he repeats. “Just watch for the signs.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I reach for a frying pan that’s hanging on a rack beside the stove. When Noah doesn’t answer, I put the pan down and turn around to look at him. He’s not sitting at the table anymore, and he isn’t anywhere else in the kitchen. I already know he’s on his way back to The Life-After.
“Figures,” I mumble. This is the guy who wouldn’t even tell me Riley’s name until last week. That’s about as helpful as he’s going to be. I don’t feel so hungry anymore.
I walk over to the table. Noah’s newspaper is still there, open to the last page he was reading. The entertainment headlines stare up at me.
“That’s some thought-provoking reading,” I mumble, but I pluck it up from the table anyway and head out of the kitchen. I might need something mindless to help me sleep tonight.
After a trip to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I climb into bed. I don’t get under the covers, though, but sit cross-legged on top of them, my back propped up against a few pillows. I let my eyes close. It’s not long before I see threads of golden light, the glow growing brighter until it’s nearly blinding. Then I’m floating in a sea of sparkling colors, most never seen by anyone who hasn’t been to The Life-After. The golden light and new colors were the first things I saw after I died. Noah was the second.
* * *
I know there was a car crash. I don’t see a car anywhere, though, and I’m not bleeding or in any kind of pain. I was, though. I know that. There was glass and blood everywhere. My blood. It hurt a lot, and then I blacked out.
I don’t even know where I am, except that this definitely isn’t my wrecked car or the highway, and it sure isn’t a hospital. It kind of looks like I’m gazing out over L.A. from somewhere up in the Hollywood Hills. There aren’t any buildings below me, though, or even a coastline in the distance. All I can see for miles are what look like thousands or maybe even millions of lights, and most are colors I’ve never seen before. I had no idea colors could even look like this.
I could be in a coma, I guess, or hopped up on some really good pain drugs. This could be a hallucination or a dream.
“You’re not hallucinating, Anna. All of this is real.”
The voice comes from out of nowhere. It should probably startle me since I almost always scare easily, but it doesn’t. All I feel is calm. When I turn my head to find the owner of the voice, I see one of the tiny lights expand and change form until there’s a man standing in front of me. He’s wearing a brown suit and fedora, a handkerchief neatly folded and peeking out of his front pocket.
I’m definitely not in Hollywood anymore. Or if I am, this is one crazy soundstage with the most well-designed set I’ve ever seen.
The man chuckles. “It’s not Hollywood, either.”
Weird. I didn’t think I’d said that out loud.
“You didn’t,” he answers. “I can hear your thoughts.”
A magically morphing thought-reader in the middle of some kind of psychedelic light show. Yeah, I’m not ruling out the pain drugs just yet.