My Brother Has AIDS - Deborah Davis | HIV/AIDS in YA Lit Week

HIV/AIDS in YA Literature Week

Check out the week's page on the blog and also the latest articles
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!

This book was published in 1984, and you can feel through the book and some situations that the action is set at the beginning of the epidemics from the very few medical options Lacy's brother has, but at the same time, some of the reactions Lacy's family go through do not seem so far away from what happens today.

Lacy is a young girl in high school, she lives for swimming and the fast approaching regionals. She misses her big brother a lot but is very happy in her life. When her big brother comes back home with AIDS, everything changes for her and she has to deal with all the changes in her life, family, friends and swimming.

This book didn't lose anything after 25 years, you might see a few differences here and there in ways of life, but the story in itself is not dated. Lacy is a girl like any teenagers, she does her homework, helps out at home, hangs out with her friends and has a very strong commitment to swimming. Being in the water is like an obligation for Lacy, and, when you read through her eyes, you understand how vital it is for her. Lacy also trusts her coach more than any other teacher and she really wants to bring the best for the team.

The book is written in third person point of view (following Lacy) and some tiny chapters are entries from her diary in first person. Even through it is slightly complicated at first, you get used to the double narrative and really get into Lacy's head.

Lacy's brother, Jack, left his small town to become a lawyer in Boston. He is gay and even though you can read that Lacy and her friends have no issues whatsoever with this, it is still a bit tense when the subject is brought up by her parents who "know without knowing" and ignore the subject. When Lacy confronts her father on this later in the novel, he explains that his attitude isn't against Jack being gay, but that he is afraid people might harm him because of this, like Lacy's father did when he was younger to another teenager. Though the book is mainly about AIDS, the prejudice over gays is also part of the story.

Jack had been in a serious relationship with Lincoln and lacy couldn't wait to meet him. But Lincoln had HIV and unknowingly contaminated Jack. Before going back to live with his parents in the last stages, Jack took care of a dying Lincoln. He saw everything that would happen to him on the person he loved the most. Jack loses the love of his life and cannot seem to try to survive. When Lacy confronts Jack asking what it feels like, he tells her how empty he felt and how afraid he was to touch anyone and anything. Those couple pages were the most beautiful of the book, truly heartbreaking.

Lacy chooses AIDS as the subject of a science project. She learns a lot about the virus and shares it with friends and her parents. Even though her parents do not want Lacy to tell people about it, fearing they might prejudice Jack and talk, Jack is happy for Lacy to share what she feels. Lacy's relation with her parents changes a lot and the book is a coming of age story about Lacy.

The story gives a perspective on a person living with AIDS and what he goes through, but also on the family living with him and going through the same prejudices from people. The book is beautifully written and the characters are all fascinating. The story brings together various themes important in YA novels like family, friends and growing up. 

If you would like to listen to an excerpt of the book , head over Deborah Davis website.


  1. Great review. You have done such a great job with this week, well done :D

  2. I second what Emma says: you are a star. This sounds like a really interesting way to tell the story from a sister's viewpoint. I wonder how much about perceptions about HIV and AIDS have changed in those 20+ years.