HIV/AIDS in YA Literature Week
If you would like to read a book on the subject, go over to the non exhaustive bibliography I compiled, don't hesitate to suggest any book missing!
Today I am welcoming Lyndsey from Heaven, Hell and Purgatory to review Adele Minchin's book The Beat Goes On.
The Beat Goes On is a novel by Adele Minchin. It was published by Livewire Books For Teenagers on 10th May 2001 and is 164 pages long.
Cousins Leyla and Emma are best friends and tell each other everything. When Leyla sees Emma coming out of the doctors one day, she instantly knows that something terrible is wrong. Swearing Leyla to secrecy, Emma tells her that she is HIV positive. All Leyla wants to do is help Emma but knows that there is nothing she can really do.
When Emma begins to attend a group at a self-help centre for other teenagers with HIV she asks Leyla to help out with the music group. Leyla’s life passion is drumming and although she doesn’t think she is very good or qualified to teach others, she agrees, knowing that it will help Emma. Keeping Emma’s secret proves hard for Leyla, especially when her best friend, hot new older boyfriend, Darren and her whole family want to know where she is going and how she is spending her time. When Emma’s health begins to deteriorate, Leyla knows that she must do everything she can to keep things together.
What I thought
I was so happy when Caroline asked if I would be a part of her week concentrating on AIDS/ HIV in YA literature. It wasn’t something that I had ever really thought about and I had also never read anything dealing with this topic. I was quite excited and interested to see how the issue would be dealt with in books for teenagers and to see how an author approached the subject.
I have quite a big problem with YA books that make teenagers out to be something they’re not. Set in Manchester, I felt like Adele Minchin really got these teenage characters right. From the way they spoke to their excitement about going out to clubs underage, I could picture myself in their place. After all, I was 15 when this book was published so around the same age as the characters and getting up to the same kinds of things. Even though I’m now 24, I could still relate to the characters in a big way. Some of the pop culture references are now quite dated, the message still stays loud and clear.
The issue of teenagers with HIV is brought up very early on in the story and I was very thankful for this. Being about such an important topic, I didn’t want this book to skirt around it in any way. The information about HIV is quite detailed, from how Emma contracted the disease to what her body was and would be going through. It was very interesting to see how Emma was coping with having HIV and how she was trying to still lead a life as normal as possible. I couldn’t possibly even begin to comprehend how difficult it must have been for her to realise how much her life was going to change and to figure out how to deal with something that big.
Another thing that I really liked about this book was Leyla. It was nice to see her and Emma stay so close through a time so hard and I was glad to see that Leyla never took a step back. She was always there for her cousin, no matter what, and would have done anything she asked if she thought it would have helped her a little bit. The news affected Leyla in such a big way and it really made me think about what I would have done if someone so close to me came to me with the same kind of thing. Emma’s HIV also makes Leyla think about things in her own life and ultimately, changes the way she thinks about everything and the people around her.
Even though The Beat Goes On has a strong message, it was nice to see some romance in there as well. Leyla and Darren’s relationship didn’t take anything away from everything else that was happening but it managed to give the story a lighter feel at times. I think that teenage readers could get a little overwhelmed if it wasn’t for this aspect of the story. Other issues being dealt with are teenagers figuring out their own identity and the problems of family dynamics. I truly feel that there is a lot that teenagers, as well as adults, can relate to in this book.
I wish that I had read more as a teenager and had found this book. I really believe that it could make people think differently about their actions and what the repercussions could be. If I could go back to being my 15 year old self, I would give me this book as a gift. For any parents not knowing how to approach this subject with their kids, then this would be an ideal way.
A huge thank you to Lyndsey for writing this insightful review and for sharing her thoughts on the subject!