Rawl’s journey from secrecy to acceptance thanks to her friends and family makes for a compelling memoir.
As a child, Paige saw her daily doses of medicine as normal—not strange at all. It wasn’t until she was in sixth grade that her mother told her that Paige had been born with HIV. That revelation ends her idyllic life in Indianapolis, forever transforming the energetic girl who did cheerleading, pageants and soccer. Because when Paige tells her best friend, Yasmine, about her HIV-positive status, the news spreads through her middle school, prompting bullies to target Paige and accuse her of having AIDS. Now known as “PAIDS,” Paige loses interest in school, suffers from stress-induced pseudo-seizures and even attempts suicide. But slowly, thanks to counseling, time at a camp for kids affected by HIV/AIDS and all her friends, Paige learns how to forgive and move on with her life. Rawl and Benjamin deftly capture the mindset of middle schooler Paige with anecdotes that reveal the teen’s innocence and naïveté, tracking her progress toward adulthood. They tackle tough subjects such as suicide delicately but honestly.
Readers will come away feeling inspired by Rawl’s work as an HIV/AIDS speaker and anti-bullying advocate. (author’s note, further resources) (Nonfiction. 12-16)