My rating: 3 of 5 stars
this is a very solid, well-written book. took me a while to get into it (i set it down once or twice), but when it hooked me, it did so quite thoroughly.
it’s the story of a teen girl whose uncle/godfather dies of AIDS. the loss devastates her. she comes to meet up with his former lover, who also has AIDS, and they start a rocky relationship based on their mutual loss.
one thing that wasn’t clear to me for quite a few pages was the story’s time period: it’s actually set in the ’80s, when the virus itself had just been identified, and the first treatments (AZT) proposed.
our heroine and her family generally struck me as a lot more modern in their thinking about homosexuality than i personally remember from the times. yes, there was a big freak-out about AIDS, but there was an equally big freak-out about accepting gay/lesbian sexuality; in the book, we get the former but not the latter. that doesn’t mesh with my own memory of the times, but hey, maybe i hung out with a more homophobic crowd.
no i didn’t. i think there’s some selective forgetting going on here.
anyway. it’s not AIDS that’s the central issue in this book–it’s just treated as a fact.
but wait. now i’m kind of annoyed. i was going to go on about the actual plot of the novel, which really is pretty good, but now i’m irked at this sweeping-under-the-rug of a huge societal clash between gay/lesbian folk and everybody else. people did shitty shitty things to gay people for being gay back then! not like they don’t now, but it’s sort of like saying: “ya, slavery, well, hrmmmm” and then going on to talk about how great MLK was (while simultaneously ignoring everything MLK said about poverty, btw).
in this book none of the societal-level homophobia exists. even the high-school kids, who are generally not known for their sensitivity, never bash the dead guy for being gay. i don’t think anybody in the whole book uses the word “faggot.” how the hell could that be?* back then there were pundits galore spouting ugly hate shit (remember that we didn’t have the qualifier “hate” then), saying that god made AIDS to punish gay men, that those pervs got what they deserved when they died by the thousands. they were proud of that ugly crap, and there were waaaay more of them than just the fucking submorons the Westboro Baptists. how did none of that make it in the book?
i feel like it’s whitewashing the ugliness of american society toward gay men (and lesbians, once they too started speaking up) that was prevalent at the time.
ok. rant over. now i’m cranky. time to go read some science fiction.
* oh wait ya there was one. a guy in prison uses the term, saying: “Art is for faggots.” yep, that’s it.