“Relationships are not democracies.”
This novel addresses the severely under-discussed topic of teen HIV infection due to unsafe practices. Lucy Moore contracts HIV on a drunken night out, and struggles with telling those closest to her. High school is tough enough with the new girl at school trying to steal your boyfriend, trying to win the part of Juliet, and figuring out what’s going on with your birth mother, without having to confess to your crush that you have HIV.
The characters are well written and the dynamic between the teenagers is good and strong and credible – as a YA novel, this does well. Tight knit community with fault lines? Check. Protagonist with dark past? Check. Bad behaviour creating conflict? Check. Even without the deep medical/behavioural topic, this makes a really solid teen novel. The perfect guy is of course not perfect, evil arch-queen softens a bit eventually, and nice guy doesn’t come last.
The HIV thing – I was actually really surprised by this. Verdi writes sensitively and delicately about this; Lucy really does screw up pretty badly, and then she suffers, and her parents suffer, and her friends suffer, and she joins a support group where the members face prejudice every day. Interestingly, she makes friends with someone who contracted HIV at birth from her mother, and has thus had a life of living with it, but at no fault. Verdi really does examine living with HIV from every angle (that one can within the remit of a YA novel).
On the other hand, the novel felt polemical – “look at how a stupid drunken mistake screws up a life” and “be nice to HIV-positive people”. Valid messages, no doubt, but a little exhaustively repeated here. Perhaps a YA novel, by definition of type, is less subtle than some of what I’m used to. Nevertheless, a tough story, well told, through a complex narrator with credible and sympathetic friends. Worth the read.Additional information: Copy kindly provided by the publisher in return for an honest review. Publisher: Sourcebooks
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