I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Positive by Ali Benjamin, Paige Rawl
Also by this author: The Thing About Jellyfish
Published by Harper Collins on 2014-08-26
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Bullying, Diseases, Illnesses & Injuries, Health & Daily Living, Juvenile Nonfiction, Social Activists, Social Issues
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An astonishing memoir for the untold number of children whose lives have been touched by bullying. Positive is a must-read for teens, their parents, educators, and administrators—a brave, visceral work that will save lives and resonate deeply.Paige Rawl has been HIV positive since birth, but growing up, she never felt like her illness defined her. On an unremarkable day in middle school, she disclosed to a friend her HIV-positive status—and within hours the bullying began. From that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. Paige was never sure when or from where the next text, taunt, or hateful message would come. Then one night, desperate for escape, fifteen-year-old Paige found herself in her bathroom staring at a bottle of sleeping pills.That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning. Paige's memoir calls for readers to choose action over complacency, compassion over cruelty—and above all, to be Positive.Includes twenty-five photos from Paige's personal collection throughout.Supports the Common Core State Standards
Before book blogging, I used to read a lot of memoirs. I know people like to call them self indulgent, but I like memoirs. I like reading other people’s stories that may veer toward the stranger than fiction category. I like reading true stories about people who overcome great adversity. When Positive by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin came in my mail three times, I knew that I was going to read it. First off, it’s short. Second off, it sounded like a relatively interesting memoir about a relatively interesting youth. Friends, I have to say, reading about Rawl’s advocacy and her triumph over adversity gives me a bit of hope when it comes to kids these days.
Positive is pretty much about Rawl’s life growing up in an Indiana suburb. Her life begins in the normal fashion and she has a pretty average upbringing. Yet, there’s something that makes Paige different from her classmates. She was born HIV positive. Her awesome mom was totally vigilant though and made sure that Rawl consistently took her medication after the two were diagnosed. Things are pretty good for Paige until middle school, when her classmates discover her HIV status. They take to calling her PAIDS and making fun of her. They write mean notes and put them in her locker and write about her on bathroom stalls. She does what she thinks is the right thing and tells the school administration. Unfortunately, the administration does nothing. So, one day, Paige hits rock bottom and tries to commit suicide. Thank goodness her attempt didn’t work, and so Positive is the story of a girl who goes through hell, but instead of giving up, like the old Churchill quote says she keeps on going. Eventually she comes out on the other side and we get this amazing story of hope and courage.
It’s interesting how much science has developed when it comes to HIV and AIDS. One thing that I like about Positive was how much it educated me about the current state of HIV. When I was growing up in the late 90s, actually 1999, we learned about AIDS and HIV in sixth grade health class. We learned about Ryan White and how it’s contracted and all that jazz. We also learned that it was pretty much a death sentence in those days. Flash forward to now and we see that medication has advanced to the point where you can take the PEP immediately after exposure to prevent contraction of HIV, if you are HIV positive you can take medication to prevent it from becoming AIDS. It’s just so interesting to me to see how much we know about a disease and treating the disease change within my lifetime.
I liked how this book approached bullying. I often see my peers wondering why there’s so much emphasis placed on anti-bullying measures today. They say things like kids need to toughen up and that it’s normal and that it will never be prevented. Books like this remind me that this school of thought is total bullshit. Bullying is a very real problem and causes real and lasting trauma. Reading about Paige’s trauma from her bullies was hard. I mean, while reading Positive, I felt such empathy for Paige. It was like she couldn’t go somewhere without being picked on by classmates. She couldn’t have a social media account without rude comments being made by people she didn’t know. Her own school administration just swept it under the rug. It’s awful, how common decency and kindness seems to be missing in some kids.
Positive is a relatively fast read with a great and inspiring story. There are pictures sprinkled throughout. The tone is conversational, so reading it makes you feel a lot of empathy for her and then admiration for her as she turns her sorrows into triumphs and finds her voice fighting for legislation against bullying, accountability, and for treating everyone with kindness.