So today is a bit of a special day in the blogosphere! The amazing Caroline at Portrait of a Woman has organised an HIV/AIDS in YA day to correspond with World AIDS Day. Bloggers everywhere are reviewing YA books that deal with HIV/AIDS to spread awareness.
Published: February 24th 2004, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 212 pages, paperback
Acquired: Sent for review by Caroline at Portrait of a Woman for World AIDS Day
Summary (from Goodreads): People don't want to talk about it. they're scared they might catch it....nobody realizes that there are people like Emma out there who have just had a bit of bad luck from one careless mistake.
At fifteen, shy Leyla looks up to her sixteen-year-old cousin, Emma. Beautiful, confident, and popular with boys, Emma seems to have it all. But when Emma learns that she's HIV positive after having unprotected sex just once, Leyla must be the strong one. Supporting her cousin through all the changes, even teaching music to kids in Emma's support group, Leyla promises to keep it all a secret.
But when Leyla's gorgeous new boyfriend thinks condoms are optional, and Emma's health begins to decline, Leyla realizes people will never be safe unless they are aware. Will she find the courage to speak out and make people understand?
My review: The Beat Goes On is one of a few novels that deals with the issue of teens suffering with HIV and one of even fewer that does it well. The strength of The Beat Goes On is in the realism with which it is written.
Minchin gets the teen voices spot on and this is something I really enjoyed. The dialogue is English through and through and extremely realistic – the girls venturing off to a nightclub even though they’re underage and terrified? Spot on. However, the only drawback is that I’m not 100% sure the book would work so well overseas so if any international bloggers have read this – do let me know!
Leyla is a great character and while I normally prefer my heroines with a little more edge, her sweetness charmed me and I loved how close she and Emma stayed throughout the story despite everything that was going on. This is the first time I’ve read The Beat Goes On but I think this is a book that would really have affected me if I’d read it as a teen – this is definitely a novel I’d recommend to educate teens and younger readers about HIV/AIDS.
Going back to the realism I mentioned earlier, the description of Emma’s infection with HIV isn’t overlooked or hidden in any way and Minchin writes with a frankness that I really appreciated. We’re given details of Emma’s infection from beginning to end and although it isn’t pleasant to read I think it’s a necessity that helped to make the book such a great story.
First line: ‘I’d been staring at the same walls in the poky box bedroom of our semi-detached house since I emerged into this world kicking and screaming fifteen years ago.’
Total: 15.5/20 (B)