Simone is HIV-positive and she knows that celibacy is the best way to stay safe. She’s been outed for her status before, but she still wants what she wants. And she wants Miles – he’s sexy and maybe, just maybe, into her. But there’s someone at her school who knows she’s HIV-positive, and they are threatening to expose her if she gets with Miles. What can Simone do?
I laughed, I cried, and I suffered with Simone. Her character came leaping out of the pages at me and then I spent the rest of my time absorbed in her life. I couldn’t put the novel down. I couldn’t work out who the ‘baddie’ was either, and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending.
I devoured this novel the minute it came through my door. Although I don’t know anyone personally with HIV, I know something of what it is like to have a life-long condition that some consider highly contagious. It’s a potent novel that is relevant to the times (nothing like The Things We Promise).
So I personally couldn’t ever consider going to a doctor’s appointment and talking about sex with my parents present (awkward!). But it’s the strength of Simone’s character that she does just that – her family is open about sex and I think that’s really important. Of course the best way to prevent HIV transmission is through abstinence, but at least they are talking about safe sex – teenagers sometimes can’t help themselves – and that’s ok!
If the memoir by Ted Neill is too heavy for you (it was pretty heavy for me, remember), this relatively lighter fiction novel could be more suitable. This novel was one of the reasons that The Prom didn’t take my fancy. I read the two close together, and the level of depth and feeling in Simone’s personality was much more powerful and believable than Emma’s.
This novel could improve the life of a teenager living with HIV, perhaps by making that HIV+ teenager feel better about themselves, or reaffirming their self worth. It has the potential to be a fabulous library book in High School libraries.
It promotes healing and understanding and stamps on some of the misconceptions that still surround HIV and its transmission. HIV isn’t a death sentence anymore, even if it still carries significant stigma. Go out and buy this novel for yourself, for your teen, just leave it laying around as a coffee table book. 5 stars from me.
Penguin Random House | 5th November 2019 | AU$16.99 | paperback