Emerson Price, more commonly known as Emmy, isn’t a typical kid. Nothing about her life is normal. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t take numerous prescriptions, when she didn’t stand out from the crowd as the odd one out. When she was four years old she and her mother were diagnosed as HIV-positive. When she was eight, her parents divorced. She and her mom are best friends and their greatest support systems. But when Emmy is thirteen her mother succumbs to AIDs. Emmy must go live with her father and pregnant stepmother. She feels like no one understands her the she way her mother did- no one else needs to take awful medicine everyday, no one else knows what it is like to be the girl with HIV. Her life is already in upheaval and she starts acting out. When her father signs her up for a summer camp for HIV-positive girls, she refuses to go. She already knows she will hate it. But it turns out to be just what she needed.
When I was in 8th grade I was a member of my school’s forensic team. (Yes, I was that dorky). We each chose an oral piece to memorize and perform at the regional competition. That year, I memorized and performed Elizabeth Glaser’s speech from the 1992 Democratic Convention (read it here). I had not thought of that speech in years but this book immediately brought it to mind. It was an extremely inspiring speech and I am grateful that Courtney Sheinmel has memorialized her own experiences with Glaser through the writing of this book.
Positively is an extremely powerful book and one I am glad I read. It’s so strange for me to look back and think that a girl like Emmy would have had a completely different life if she was my age. We have come such a long way in the last two decades. But Scheinmel will make you laugh and cry in Positively. I felt like I knew Emmy and I wanted to stay with her way after the story ended. I think my students are going to love this one. It deals with a tough issue that most tweens and teens aren’t even aware of. Sheinmel deals with it realistically but also appropriately for the age level she is writing for….be prepared with some tissues when you read this one!
*Review copy courtesy of the publisher. This is a Cybils nominated title and all opinions are my own.