The significance of a spring formal hemline gets snagged on earth-shattering reality amid the1990s-era AIDS crisis.
Gemma is a 16-year-old suburban Aussie who strides ahead of the local fashion curve thanks to insider information from her cosmopolitan brother, Billy, whose fabulous life styling New York City’s glitterati has made him a local legend back home. With the spring formal glimmering on the academic horizon, Gemma is thrilled at Billy’s promise to personally make over Gemma and two of her friends—a rare chance to annihilate the reigning popular girls. But concerns over fabric swatches and coif height are chucked aside when Billy’s longtime boyfriend dies of an AIDS-related illness. Gemma’s sense of foreboding is soon validated when Billy announces that he is HIV-positive. With splashes of pop culture from singers to cinema, the ’90s background is displayed in full color. The conflicting poles of AIDS education and ignorance-based reactions are juxtaposed as Gemma struggles to find her footing while her peers carry on as per usual. All characters are assumed white, however diverse challenges—including verbal abuse, homophobia (from family and society), bigotry, physical abuse, and rape—are presented as part of the harsh reality of the world at large.
A solemn slice of life harmonizing beauty, tragedy, ignorance, sentiment, and the profound continued importance of AIDS awareness and education. (Fiction. 14-18)