Adele Minchin, Author . S&S $15.95 (212p) ISBN 978-0-689-86611-1

Though British author Minchin's debut novel goes overboard on exposition, it does educate readers about the impact of HIV. When narrator Leyla's teen cousin, Emma, confides that she is HIV-positive, Leyla promises to keep her secret and stay her friend. She gets more deeply involved with other teens dealing with the disease when Emma asks her to teach drums at a music workshop offered through a support center. Emma explains what it was like to get tested, a girl in the support group worries about telling her boyfriend of her status, and Leyla says no to sex when her new boyfriend admits he doesn't have a condom. Leyla also faces prejudice and ignorance ("the risk of a normal person getting it is still extremely low" her gym teacher says in a short assembly) and intolerance (a school bully harasses her when she finds out Leyla was at the support center, bruiting it about that Leyla has AIDS, and Leyla's own mom shuns Emma and her mother). While Leyla's fierce loyalty and commitment to her beliefs—as well as her passion for drumming—make her compelling, her narration tends to state the obvious ("My mind was full of all the new people I'd met and all their different stories of how HIV affected their lives"). Readers may also be disappointed with the contrived conclusion. Although Minchin supplies plenty of good information along the way, ultimately, the novel's mission is more impressive than the narrative. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
Paperback - 214 pages - 978-0-7043-4972-8
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-1-4169-6755-2
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