A Teenage Boy Gets Involved In an Abortion Protest In This Excerpt From The Fight for MidnightBooks Features Dan Solomon
As we near the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court verdict that overturned both Roe v. Wade and fifty years of precedent when it comes to women’s rights, the premise of Dan Solomon’s YA novel The Fight for Midnight (sadly) feels more timely and necessary than ever. Based on the real political events surrounding a restrictive abortion ban Texas attempted to pass in 2013—a law which, in and of itself, feels almost quaint a decade later. after that same state passed a bounty hunter law that encouraged people to report on their neighbors seeking healthcare for cash rewards and when Roe v. Wade has already fallen—the story follows a boy named Alex, who comes to understand that the fight for reproductive rights is one that everyone has a stake in, whether they know it or not.
Solomon, himself a reporter who covered Wendy Davis’s historic filibuster for The Austin Chronicle—his book includes verbatim transcripts of the events that occurred in the Texas statehouse—says the experience “changed [his] life in a lot of ways” and inspired him to write this story, about how a teenage boy learns that being silent isn’t an option when it comes to people losing their rights.
“There are a lot of people who think that if they don’t have a uterus, then the fight for abortion rights doesn’t really concern them—which is not an opinion that the men who pass laws restricting abortion access share,” Solomon told Paste last year. “I wanted to write about a character who learns for himself why he needs to be involved in that fight.”
Here’s how the publisher describes the story.
It’s been a rough year for Alex Collins. In the past twelve months, he’s lost his best friend, become the target of the two biggest bullies at school, and been sentenced to community service. But on June 25, 2013, he gets a call for help from Cassie Ramirez, the prettiest girl in school. At last, he feels like his luck might be changing.
Cassie is at the Texas State Capitol to protest Wendy Davis’s historic filibuster of the abortion bill HB2, and she’s rallying everyone she knows to join her. Until today, Alex didn’t know what a filibuster was, and he’d never given a moment’s thought to how he felt about abortion. But at the Capitol, he finds himself in the middle of a tense scene full of pro-life “blueshirts,” pro-choice “orangeshirts,” and blustering politicians playing political games as Wendy Davis tries to run out the clock at midnight.
Alex may have entered the Capitol looking to spend time with Cassie, but the political gets personal when he runs into his ex-friend Shireen in an orange T-shirt and quickly realizes that when it comes to an issue like abortion, neutral isn’t an option. Over the next nineteen hours—as things get increasingly heated both on the Senate floor and between the two sets of protesters—Alex will struggle to figure out what side he’s on, knowing that whatever choice he makes will bring him face-to-face with his past mistakes.
The Fight for Midnight officially hits shelves on June 20, 2023, but we’re excited to offer you a sneak peek of the novel’s first chapter right now.
I’m running late when my phone rings. I was supposed to be inside the Austin Adult Day Care Center, where the terms of my deferred prosecution have me doing community service all summer, three minutes ago. But my phone never rings these days, so I answer the call out of curiosity. “Hello?”
“Hi! Is this Alex Collins?” a friendly—downright bubbly, even—female voice asks me.
“It is,” I say, pressing the phone to my ear with my shoulder as I lock my bike to the rack outside the center.
“Hey, Alex. It’s Cassie,” she says, then adds for clarification, “Ramirez.”
If I had any friends left, I would assume this is a prank from someone who knows about my lifelong crush on Cassie Ramirez. But I haven’t had any friends in months. I have no idea why Cassie Ramirez would be calling me, or even where she got my number, but I don’t have time to ask for the details. I can’t afford to get into trouble for blowing off community service, so I just stammer, “Hey, Cassie,” and head toward the door.
“What are you doing later today?” she asks me, like that’s a normal question for her to ask me, like the fact that we haven’t exchanged more than half a dozen words since we were in fourth grade would naturally lead to a morning phone call on a Tuesday in the summer.
“Um—I’m not sure,” I say. “No plans yet.”
That’s an understatement. The theme of my Summer of 2013 has been “no plans yet,” starting basically from the day school let out until this very moment, where my only plan consists of reading fifty pages of a gruesomely violent fantasy series to a man in his eighties who always wants more of the beheadings.
“I’m really glad to hear that,” she says, then laughs a disarming, self-conscious laugh. “I mean, no offense. But today is really important. You should come to the Capitol as soon as you can. There’s a lot going on, and you could really help out.”
“At the Capitol? Like a bake sale or something?” I ask, still waiting outside the center.
“Like a protest,” she says. “A big one. And I really need your help. Can you be there?”
Cassie’s popular, so if she’s calling me, she must be trying to build the biggest army of protesters of all time. I didn’t even know she cared about politics. But it’s safe to assume that right now, she’s calling everybody she hasn’t already texted, Facebooked, tweeted, tagged on Instagram, Snapchatted, or reblogged on Tumblr in order to rally the troops. I deleted all of that stuff a few months ago, which is probably why she’s on the phone with me.
So this isn’t Cassie revealing that she’s also had a secret crush on me for forever, but that’s okay. The summer before your senior year is supposed to be the best time of your life, but mine has just been lonely. Not only is Cassie the prettiest girl in school, but she’s also one of the nicest—even to me and the people I used to hang out with, when plenty of other people just saw us as weirdos. It’s not like I’m busy, and who knows? Showing up when she says she needs my help can’t be a bad way to spend time with her. I tell her that she can count on me. I’m in.
“That’s so great! Text me when you get here, okay? I’ll be somewhere in the rotunda,” she says, “wearing blue.”
The halls of the Austin Adult Day Care Center are musty, but the place is nicer than you’d expect from the outside. “Adult day care” is basically what it sounds like—for elderly people whose grown children care for them at home, it’s a place they can be during the day. It’s complete with nursing staff, activities to do, and healthy meals they can eat without running the risk of setting the kitchen on fire—awesome if you’re an octogenarian, less cool if you’re seventeen. But at least it gets me out of the house. If you’ve got only one friend who isn’t your mom, it doesn’t matter too much if he’s eighty-five years old and spends his days in a stuffy building with linoleum floors.
When I came in for my first day of community service, the lady who coordinated the visit told me Mr. Monaghan couldn’t see very well, and it might be nice for someone to read to him. She promised that they had plenty of books to choose from. But when I got here, all I could find was a dusty shelf with every Da Vinci Code book and an unofficial sequel to Gone with the Wind. I asked Mr. Monaghan which he’d prefer, and he made a gagging noise.
“You look like a reader. You got anything in that purse of yours?” he asked, gesturing to my messenger bag.
I did, in fact, have a copy of A Game of Thrones on me, and I told him so.
“That’s the one they make that television program about with the dragons, isn’t it?” he asked. “Is it good?”
I’d only started reading it—we used to all get together every Sunday to watch the show at Jesse’s house, at least until the most recent season—but as lonely as this summer was shaping up to be, I figured I’d be able to get through five doorstoppers of a fantasy series.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m not very far along, but so far—I like it.”
He asked if I minded starting back at the beginning, and I told him I was there solely to amuse and entertain him. I read him the first fifty pages that day, and Mr. Monaghan was into it. I’ve been back three mornings a week since, and we’re more than halfway through now. He made me promise not to read ahead without him, and I’ve kept my word. And whenever things get dicey in the book, he gets more and more enthusiastic. In some ways, it really is a lot like watching the show at Jesse’s, where waiting for the show on Sunday nights felt like our group’s version of watching sports.
“There’s our man!” Mr. Monaghan says as I make my way into the smallish room we meet in. He’s sitting in one of the armchairs against the wall, his thin, lanky frame draped over it like an old coat and his eyes half-closed. He’s wearing a gray-and-brown flannel shirt—as ugly a shirt as you’re likely to find—like a jacket over a black-and-red flannel shirt, which he’s got buttoned up. Sometimes, it’s impossible to tell if Mr. Monaghan does the things he does solely to mess with you.
“Yep! Sorry I’m late.” I set my bag down on top of the old piano in the corner of the room and take a seat in the other armchair.
“It’s a hot one out there, isn’t it? And you’re on a bike. Shit,” he says, which is the sort of thing he says a lot—he was a sailor in World War II. “I’m lucky you keep coming at all.”
“It’s not totally up to me,” I say. “But I wouldn’t miss it anyway.”
“Oh, that’s right, you’re a delinquent,” he says with a laugh. “I forgot about that.”
“I wish I could,” I say.
“You’re on deferred prosecution. Nobody besides me will ever even know.”
Mr. Monaghan doesn’t know that the brief flirtation with delinquency that led me to my role as his reading buddy is the least of my problems, and I don’t really want him to. So I change the subject. “Want to catch up with what’s happening in King’s Landing?”
“Hell yeah.” He smiles.
I crack the book, and things are easy for the next hour or so. I can’t stop myself from doing the character voices to try to sound like the actors on the show. Fortunately, Mr. Monaghan stopped making fun of how awful my British accents are a few weeks back, otherwise we’d never make any progress in the book. Fifty-three pages later, I tuck A Game of Thrones back in my bag.
“You staying cool out there this summer? It’s a hot one today. Stay indoors if you can,” Mr. Monaghan says. “I wouldn’t put a dog out there in this fucking heat.”
“I’ll do my best,” I say. “I’m not sure if they have air-conditioning at the Capitol.”
“The Capitol?” he asks. “Why the hell are you going to that shithole?”
Before I can even answer, I find myself blushing. Am I really about to hang out with Cassie Ramirez?
“There’s a protest today,” I say. Feeling bold, I add, “A girl invited me.”
“Hell, good for you,” he says. “To a protest at the Capitol? Give ’em hell. Is this about the abortion thing?”
I realize that I have no clue what we’re protesting. It didn’t even occur to me to ask. Abortion. I think I saw something about that on the news. There were lots of people yelling at each other.
“Yup,” I say, even though I’m not totally sure.
“What they’re doing is fucked up,” he says, and I nod. Then I remember that he probably can’t see me.
“It is,” I say quietly, embarrassed of my ignorance. I mean, I guess abortion is a bad thing? My mom is Catholic—like Cassie’s family is—so I know that the priests and my mom don’t like it. But most Sundays, I tell her that I’ll ride my bike to the late-morning mass so I can sleep in, then I go to the coffee shop across the street to read for an hour instead. So I can’t say that I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the priests lately.
“Say hi to Debbie if you see her down there,” Mr. Monaghan says, referring to his daughter. Debbie Monaghan is the reason I started coming here, as opposed to doing my court-mandated hours anywhere else. She’s a friend of my mom’s from church. When my mom confided to her that I needed to find a volunteer position, she mentioned that her dad was coming here now, and he could use someone to keep him company since he didn’t take to the staff very well.
“I didn’t know she was going,” I say.
“Yeah, she’s been there all week, since this bullshit started,” he says. “She took the day off work today to help organize people. It’s important, what you’re doing.”
“It is.” I nod, suddenly feeling a rush of conviction.
This past school year, I did a lot of things I regret. Reading to Mr. Monaghan makes me feel a bit better, because it means I must not be a complete asshole. I don’t know exactly what the protest is all about, but Debbie is super nice, a total moral compass, so if she’ll be at the Capitol, then going there is another chance for me to be a decent person, too—and if it happens to mean that I end up spending a few hours this afternoon hanging out with the prettiest girl in Austin, Texas, I guess I’ll just consider that a bonus. As far as all the abortion stuff goes, I haven’t really thought about it much—but I’m a guy, so why would I?
The Fight for Midnight will hit shelves on June 20, but you can pre-order it right now.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.