A now-rarely-discussed topic—a teenager with HIV—receives sensitive but flawed treatment in this debut novel.
Lucy’s suburban life is picture-perfect: good friends, a boyfriend, a bright future. But when her boyfriend cheats on her, she gets cast as Mercutio rather than Juliet, and her fathers let her pregnant, drug-addict mother stay with them, Lucy decides it’s time to be someone else. A night of drinking and dancing at a Manhattan nightclub ends with Lucy going home with a guy and having unprotected sex. Inevitably, Lucy contracts the HIV virus from the encounter. Her diagnosis sends Lucy into a tailspin, through good and bad doctors, a new friend and a new boyfriend. After some struggle, she’s gained some hard-won equilibrium, only to be threatened by an old enemy. Lucy’s journey toward accepting her diagnosis is realistically handled, complete with highs and lows. There are perhaps too many AIDS statistics interrupting the story, and too many coincidences and pat story elements are present: One unprotected sexual encounter leads to HIV, and a muffed stage sword fight causes Lucy to bleed, among others. It all starts to verge on problem-novel status.
Nevertheless, given the strength of Lucy’s development and the paucity of novels currently written about suburban teens with HIV, the flaws can be overlooked by readers. (Fiction. 14 & up)