Rummanah Aasi
  I am so happy that I took part in the nonfiction reading challenge this year. I was a bit worried at first that I would have a hard time finding good books to read since nonfiction is out of my comfort zone, but I am glad that I am wrong.

Description: Paige Rawl has been HIV positive since birth…but growing up, she never felt like her illness defined her. It never prevented her from entering beauty pageants or playing soccer or making the honor role. On an unremarkable day in middle school, while attempting to console a friend, Paige disclosed her HIV-positive status—and within hours the bullying began. She was called "PAIDS," first in whispers, then out in the open. Her soccer coach joked that she was an asset because opposing team members would be too afraid to touch her. Her guidance counselor told her to stop all the “drama,” and her principal said she couldn’t protect her. One night, desperate for escape, Paige swallowed fifteen sleeping pills—one for each year of her life to date. That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning.

Review: Positive is an eye opening, realistic, and unflinching read about a young woman living with HIV. Rawl was born with HIV, diagnosed early, and took medication for as long as she could remember. She never experienced symptoms of the virus or AIDS nor did she understand the severity of her disease and how it could alienate her until middle school. In a moment of empathy, Paige confided in her best friend about her HIV-positive status. Her best friend then told others, spreading like throughout the school. Paige was bullied, prevented from playing soccer, her favorite sport, and discriminated because of her HIV+ status.
  Though the incidents of bullying that Paige faced were heart wrenching and awful, the lack of support from her school's administration infuriated me. Instead of holding the bullies responsible for their reprehensible behavior, they placed the blame on Paige and told her that she was causing unnecessary drama. Like many young adults her age, Paige's self esteem dropped dramatically. She became depressed and developed panic attacks. Paige did not want to burden her mother of the ugly truths she faced at school and turned to self harm and attempted suicide to solve her problems. Luckily, her mother intervened and Paige sought help. She attended support groups of HIV+ children and slowly gained back the support that she lacked from her administration.
  While her experience has been painful, Paige eventually gained control of her life. Her persistence is admirable. Now she is a college student planning to study molecular biology, but more importantly, she is an advocate against bullying and an HIV/AIDS educator.
 Through short chapters, readers will get a balanced view of Paige's life, balancing the happy and tumultuous time of her life as well as gain accessible information on HIV/AIDS. The book beautifully conveys what it's like to grow up with HIV, dispelling myths about the virus and imparting useful knowledge. At the back of the book there are websites and resources on AIDS, HIV, bullying, and suicide for readers who would like to know more and become an advocate themselves.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are discussions of self harm and attempted suicide though the descriptions are not graphic. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi, Empty by K.M. Walton
3 Responses
  1. I have always thought books like these are what should be taught in school. So much could be learned from them. I think I might have to read this one myself. Brilly review!

  2. One of a couple of books on the Abe Lincoln nominated list for this year that I haven't read. I've been hesitant (picky about my nonfiction) but after your thoughts I'll give it a try.

  3. I can't believe Paige's school's administration was so unsupportive! As adults, they could have set an example and instead, they chose to show her peers that it was okay to alienate and bully her. I generally avoid memoirs but I'd be interested in reading this one, Rummanah.

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