A first novel puts AIDS squarely in a setting of normal pubescent anxieties unrelated to homosexuality or drug use. Summer vacation in northern Minnesota with her best summer friend, Josh, has always been a time of joy for Bird. The summer before she enters seventh grade, however, gives this only child a lot to deal with: the news that her mother is pregnant; her own first period; an attendant question about whether her friendship is really love; and the knowledge that hemophiliac Josh is HIV-positive. Apparently this is set in the recent past, before plasma was routinely tested for the virus. Aiming the work at young teens, Bantle is determined to downplay reactions to Josh's condition, even if it is unlikely that Bird's parents would be so casually unconcerned about it. In all other ways, the author deals in an honest, down-to-earth manner with the emotional issues surrounding HIV and brings to Josh a realistic balance of boyish gusto, sober questioning, and outright terror. The lake setting is wholly evoked, as is a cast of compassionate supporting characters, which includes a gay couple. Worth adding to collections in communities that are still having trouble accepting the reality of AIDS--Bantle's message is one of reason and hope.