For What It's Worth

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin



20306819In this compelling and compulsively readable memoir, nineteen-year-old Paige Rawl tells the story of how she was mercilessly bullied in middle school...and how she overcame the ordeal to change her world for the better.

In this astonishing memoir, Paige tells a story that is both deeply personal and completely universal—one that will resonate deeply with the thousands of children and adults whose lives have been touched by bullying.

Paige Rawl has been HIV positive since birth…but growing up, she never felt like her illness defined her. It never prevented her from entering beauty pageants or playing soccer or making the honor role.

On an unremarkable day in middle school, while attempting to console a friend, Paige disclosed her HIV-positive status—and within hours the bullying began. She was called "PAIDS," first in whispers, then out in the open. Her soccer coach joked that she was an asset because opposing team members would be too afraid to touch her. Her guidance counselor told her to stop all the “drama,” and her principal said she couldn’t protect her. One night, desperate for escape, Paige swallowed fifteen sleeping pills—one for each year of her life to date. That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning.

The gripping first-person account of Paige’s life will pull in even the most reluctant readers of nonfiction, and her call to action to choose compassion over cruelty will stay with them long after they turn the last page.

Goodreads | Source: ARC provided by Harper Collins via BEA

Review:

What struck me the most is Paige Rawl's brightness - for lack of a better word. Despite growing up HIV positive - taking meds every day, constant visits to the hospital - she's a happy kid who has big hopes and dreams for her future. She's so outgoing, vibrant and kind and it was sad to see that light slowly snuffed out by cruelty.

As tough as it was to read about what Paige's supposed best friends did to her after finding out her HIV status, it was really difficult to wrap my head around the adult reactions. These are the people meant to protect her - and they failed in every way possible.

Paige had a horrible experience but was lucky to have people who stood by her and she also has a wonderful, fierce mom (I bet she has a fascinating story to tell). We’re lucky Paige is so willing to share her experiences to help others. She struggles to decide how much anger to hang on to. Anger can push you forward to make changes but it can also hold you back, making you fearful to live life.

This was a surprisingly light and hopeful read despite the subject matter. Rawl does a wonderful job describing both the ups and downs, explaining HIV/AIDS and tying it together with the recent cases of bullying currently making headlines.

Positive is a YA novel but I would really love if more adults would read it. There are a lot of people who use fear of the unknown to treat people poorly and Positive shows how that kind of rhetoric effects real people's lives.

Positive:

“Are we so convinced that our world is just, that it’s fair, that we can be sure that people are always, somehow, to blame for everything bad that strikes them? Is there no such thing as bad luck?

Or, maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe we’re so afraid of bad luck that we punish those who have it – punish them ruthlessly – as a defense against any bad luck that might strike us. Or maybe we’re at once so tribal, and so insecure, that we only know that we’re inside a group by punishing someone ese outside.

Or, who knows, perhaps it all comes down to this: humans are afraid of what they don’t understand. And we are at our absolute worse when we are afraid.

I don’t know. I don’t expect I’ll ever know.
I just know it has to stop.”

21 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It is but it isn't. She does so much good now because of the experience. It's a very uplifting book overall.

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  2. okay adds this one to the reading pile :)

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  3. Oh lord, I think this is going to stop my heart

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    1. Of course it's sad but she has such a positive outlook and spirit that it's not as depressing of a book as it seems it would be.

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  4. Lovely review, Karen. I saw this book and I thought it sounded interesting. I can only imagine the difficulites this young lady has endured, to have HIV and then be bullied.... double whammy. I agree, I think this is a book that everyone should read to educate and help us to learn tolerance.

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    1. She explains everything in a really down to earth - accessible way.

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  5. This sounds like a very important book. I hate that so many adults in her life failed to protect and help her...especially in the school setting. That's so awful.

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    1. They were more worried about the stigma of HIV and then covering their asses. That kind of thing drives me crazy because I've seen it myself and it keeps happening.

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    1. She really is. Very inspirational. I doubt I would have the same outlook as she did.

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  7. This sounds like such a great book to read! It also sounds like one I would read and then give to everyone I know. LOL

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    1. It would be great for kids of course but it's really adults that I believe should read it.

      She's so articulate and hopeful. It's hard to ignore her or pull out lame stereotypes to justify their inaction.

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  8. Obviously a brave young woman. My heart goes out to her, that on top of everything else she had the deal with this sort of ignorance and even worse what sounds like downright cruelty

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  9. Whoops! It should of course have read 'to deal with', my apologies.

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  10. The poor girl -- but good on her for keeping a positive attitude and being a bright light in the world!

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  11. I've seen this one around and it looks like it would be a good read for a parent/teen reading group, as well.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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  12. This is the first I'm hearing of this one - definitely sounds like much more serious subject matter than I'm used to... but I appreciate that it's actually quite hopeful despite all the crap. I'm not sure I could bear it if it weren't hopeful. But as it is, this one would be a really great one for me to read as part of my "going outside my comfort zone" reading.

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  13. Wow, I love your review of this. I saw Positive in a bookstore a few weeks ago, and kind of passed right over it. But now I am thinking that I want to give it a read. I love that you say Paige is so hopeful and, well, positive- hehe, about everything and that even though the book is so serious, that it still feels kind of light.

    It sounds like an important read and I agree with you that people tend to fear the unknown. It's a shame.

    Really excellent review. And thanks for giving me some new insight into a book that I would have otherwise passed up.

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

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  14. Wow.. I could only imagine what this lady had to go though :/ I love reading memoirs so thank you for putting this under my radar! I'm kind of obsessed with your page now, ever since I liked a book you recommended :D Lovely review x Benish | Feminist Reflections

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