This is an incredibly poignant and full-on piece of writing. Garrett doesn’t flinch before laying the cold bare truth on the table or pull any punches. She says it how it is and she wants you to hear it. This story about a young teenage girl who wants a boyfriends and to experience the sexual side of a relationship, although her parents would prefer she stay abstinent. That way she can’t accidentally pass on her acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
I have to note that I found the level of scrutiny and lack of privacy Simone’s parents give her is extreme, regardless of how worried they are about her. It is difficult enough to navigate the world of teenage angst without the added burden of a health condition everyone is scared of and parents who think it’s okay to suffocate instead of empower their child.
I found the level of research into the topic of living with AIDS admirable both overall and in the context of the main character, a young teenage girl. It’s described meticulously and in a way that makes sense to a layman and perhaps especially to a young reader.
Garrett confronts the invisible and yet very alive and kicking discrimination against people with AIDS and HIV. The fear that was sown and grown in the 80s, during the frightening pandemic which took many lives. Since those times medical research has come so far that an HIV or AIDS diagnosis isn’t automatically a death sentence, as it once was. A very fixed and rigid regime of medication will allow a person with said diagnosis to live a long life.
The author also takes readers into the world of white privilege and the institutionalised racism Simone is confronted with, and her world of secrecy. She is torn between staying under the radar and knowing that embarking upon a sexual relationship means disclosing her condition.
It’s a YA read, but it’s also one I recommend for readers of any age, mainly because this book will do a lot to allay irrational fears that still exist when it comes to this condition. Garrett has a strong voice she isn’t afraid to use and I look forward to reading more by her.