Middle Grade Contemp
Simon & Schuster, 2009
Every so often I come across a book by accident that ends up being one of my favorite reads of the year. This is such a book. It's not exactly new, but for some reason it was still featured on the "new release" shelves in the YA section of my local library. I had no idea what to expect just by looking at the cover, but I like pink so I picked it up.
I know. That's a silly reason to read a book blurb. I've never denied the spell that book covers cast on me, though. For this one, it was just the overall cleanness of it (and the pink bubbles) that got my attention.
Once I cracked it open and read the blurb, there was no turning back.
Emerson Price cannot remember a time when life was ordinary. She was four years old when she and her mom were diagnosed as HIV-positive -- infected with the virus that causes AIDS -- and eight when her parents divorced. Now she is thirteen and her mother is dead. Emmy moves in with her father and stepmother, but she feels completely alone. Even though everyone has always accepted her, no one -- not her father, or stepmother, or even her best friend -- understands what it's like to have to take medicine every single day and to be so afraid of getting sick. Now Emmy misses her mom more than she ever thought she would.
When Emmy's dad and stepmother send her to Camp Positive, a camp for HIV-positive girls, Emmy is certain she is going to hate it. But soon she realizes that she is not so alone after all -- and that sometimes letting other people in can make all the difference in the world.
It's a bit chilling to think of this girl's situation. Even more chilling was the opening sentence:
When my mother died I imagined God was thinking, One down, and one to go.
The story that followed did not disappoint. Something like this has the potential to smack you around with ideals, but the author never once did that. It was raw and real, and at times, a bit unreasonable. But I wouldn't expect a 13 year-old girl to be reasonable, especially when she knows she might not live to see adulthood, she might not ever have a first kiss, let alone have sex with anyone... she might not ever know if people are nice to her because they feel sorry for her or because they actually like her as a person.
These are not small things.
And yes, this book made me cry, but probably not for the reason you're thinking. When Emmy goes to camp she starts to see things differently, about herself and others. What really got to me, though, was how her view of her mother remained consistent through the entire story. She never got upset with her mom for passing on this death sentence to her. She cherished what they had together while they had it. She remembered the good things about her mom, and if she realized she was forgetting something specific, like the sound of her mom's voice, it saddened her.
There are so many things to love about this book. I'm sure I could read it again and see things I didn't see before. It is one of those rare reading experiences that has a truly resonating quality, which is why I'm surprised I'd never heard of it before.
Please read this book and tell others about it. I've added it to my list of recommended reading for teens, but I think adults should read it, too. Everyone.