Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Do you remember the boys who would run around the playground shouting, "You've got cooties!"? Every school had them. Their main goal was usually to aggravate the girls, who would typically ignore them or loudly complain to their friends.

I must have been in second or third grade when one day, one of the boys shouted something different.

"You've got AIDS! You've got AIDS!"

I don't remember my outward reaction or my friends' reactions, but I definitely remember feeling shocked and really, really uncomfortable. I didn't know all the details about the disease, of course, at that time, but I did know that it was something that you never, ever, ever wanted to get, because people died from it, and there was something about it that made it different from cancer, a heart attack, or anything else that killed people. Ryan White was already a household name, and Rock Hudson was already dead, so it was definitely on the evening news and in the newspaper. I also knew that you had to be very careful with cuts and blood, so I guess someone talked to me about it. Although I can't remember any specific discussions that anyone had with me about it, I don't remember ever *not* knowing that word. I didn't always know the specifics, but I always knew the heaviness, for lack of a better word, that surrounded it. It wasn't until I picked up Positively that that specific memory came rushing back. I hadn't thought about it in years.

Thirteen year old Emerson Price can't remember a time in which HIV was not a part of her life. Diagnosed at the age of four (her mother became HIV+ due to a relationship prior to her marriage), Emmy has largely kept healthy due to her daily regiment of pills. "I love this for keeping you well," her mother would say, kissing the pill bottle before administering Emmy's medicine.

Emmy's life is turned upside down when her mother succumbs to her illness, requiring her to live with her father and his newly pregnant wife. When the trauma of losing her mother and dealing with her new family arrangements get to be too much, Emmy reluctantly attends a sleepaway camp for girls infected with HIV. For the first time, Emmy meets other girls who understand exactly what she's going through.

Although the basic facts about HIV are imparted in somewhat of a teacher-ish way at the very beginning (not uncommon among children's fiction about diseases) and the ending is a bit neat, Positively is a wonderful and engrossing read that encases the highs and lows of Emmy's life. Although HIV is a major part of the story, it's definitely not told in a "Very Special Episode" way. Emmy's relationships with her stepmother, father, and best friend will ring true to any preteen/teen reader. Her fears about her unknown future will strike their hearts as well. Emmy, despite her disease, is truly EveryGirl, with emotions and situations with which preteen/teen girls can identify.

For preteens/teens needing an informational book about HIV/AIDS, Quicksand is a (new) basic, soup-to-nuts book that lays out the information in an unassuming and nonjudgmental manner. The anonymous author's own personal story with HIV/AIDS (her brother-in-law died from the disease) adds a tender personal touch.

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