Even under the most normal circumstances, high school can be a painful and confusing time. Unfortunately, Lilianna's circumstances are anything but normal. Only a few people know what caused her sudden change from model student to the withdrawn pessimist she has become, but her situation isn't about to get any better. When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Lil's worst fears are realized. With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak-her father in Delaware covering the early stages of the disease and her mother in Hong Kong and unable to get a flight back to New Jersey-Lil's town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread illness and fatal disaster. Now, she's more alone than she's been since the "incident" at her school months ago. With friends and neighbors dying all around her, Lil does everything she can just to survive. But as the disease rages on, so does an unexpected tension as Lil is torn between an old ex and a new romantic interest. Just when it all seems too much, the cause of her original trauma shows up at her door. In this thrilling debut from author Yvonne Ventresca, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons. Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound
Excerpt from PANDEMICAt this point in Pandemic, there have been local cases of the Blue Flu, including one death. Lil visits her best friend, Megs, who is getting dressed to meet a boy she has only corresponded with online. This scene is a snapshot of both the mundane aspects and the very deepness of their friendship. -- I found Megs surrounded by a dozen shirts heaped on her bedroom floor. “What should I wear?” she asked. “I need something to go with my favorite jeans.” She plopped on her bed, face flushed. I hesitated, torn between worrying about her safety and wanting to support her romantic longings. “You’re sure you want to go through with this?” She nodded. “Then don’t worry, we’ll find something. You have great clothes.” I glanced at her alarm clock. It was 6:15. She followed my eyes. “I’ll be fashionably late.” I pulled out a turquoise blouse that had fabric cutouts in the back. “I need to look good from the front, not when I leave,” she said. “Right.” I told her about Ethan while I searched her closet for something better. “Are you sure you want to start with him again?” she asked. “I don’t know. He made it sound like, how could I not give us one more chance?” My phone pinged. “Ugh.” “What’s the matter?” “Ethan’s already texting me.” I sighed. “He’s looking forward to tonight.” “Ah, it’s nice to see he hasn’t lost that stalker-ish quality.” I glared at her. “Lil, you know I’m right. If your heart’s not in it, don’t go.” “I miss my old life before . . . everything.” I kept flipping through her closet. “But dating Ethan again won’t magically turn back time. It won’t make the other stuff vanish.” “I guess you’re right,” I said. “Hmm . . . at least we both have dates tonight.” “It’s not a date. I’m going over to his house.” “I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about tomorrow,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m finally meeting him.” Near the back of the closet, a black top with three-quarter sleeves was lodged between two camis. I didn’t even take it all the way out before Megs shook her head. Her face was shiny and I realized she was sweating. “Are you nervous?” “A little. I’m not feeling great. I think it’s all the excitement.” “You shouldn’t go if you don’t feel well.” She scowled at me. “I have to go. I can’t explain it. It feels like part of something bigger, like destiny.” I pursed my lips together to keep from spouting my opinion. After pulling out a pale blue shirt, I held it against her. “This will look good with— ” My fingers brushed against her arm. She was burning hot. I put the back of my hand against her forehead the way Mom always did to me. “You feel feverish.” “I’m fine.” She swayed as she tried to stand. “Megs, you’re sick.” Fear made my voice quiver. “You can’t go. This is crazy.” “It’s too late to cancel.” She sank onto her bed, coughing. “Can you get me a glass of water while I change?” “Sure.” I hurried to the kitchen. Mrs. Salerno sat at the counter, a newspaper spread in front of her. I had to tell her about Megs. She’d forgive me for missing her date, eventually. “Mrs. Salerno, I . . .” She looked at me, waiting. Then we both heard it: the crashing sound from Megs’s room. We raced up the stairs. Megs lay sprawled on the floor next to her toppled bedside table. “I felt dizzy, and then . . .” Mrs. Salerno scooped her up and laid her on the bed. “Let me get the thermometer.” After her mom left the room, Megs looked at me, pleading. “I need you to do me a favor.” I knew what she was about to ask. “No way.” “Please? You don’t have to talk to him. It’ll be crowded, so he won’t notice you. Look for the guy carrying a book, something that would have meaning to me. Then I’ll tell him later how sick I was, that I couldn’t make it.” “I’m supposed to meet Ethan soon. And a crowded shop mean germs.” “Could you tell him you’re running late? It wouldn’t take much time. If you walked in and out, it’s like two minutes of exposure.” She widened her eyes, pleading. This was important to her, no matter how much I disapproved. I considered it. For my best friend, I could probably handle a few moments in a public place.
Yvonne Ventresca is the author of PANDEMIC (Sky Pony Press, 2014), a young adult novel about an emotionally traumatized teenager struggling to survive a deadly bird flu outbreak. School Library Journal called PANDEMIC "an engrossing apocalyptic story” and Kirkus Reviews said “this realistic page-turner will keep most readers enthralled.” Yvonne’s other writing credits include two nonfiction books for teens, AVRIL LAVIGNE (a biography of the singer) and PUBLISHING (about careers in the field).
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