Three young, queer Brazilian men grapple with the realities of living with HIV in Rocha’s audacious debut.
The overcrowded clinic brims with impatient people, but for 18-year-old Ian Gonçalves, the only thing on his mind is his testing positive for HIV. The news sends him spiraling down, understandably. Enter 18-year-old Victor Mendonça, who’s also in the clinic, awaiting his results after a recent partner revealed his own HIV status. Fortunately, Victor’s in the clear, but he notices the distraught Ian and offers him the opportunity to connect with said partner, 21-year-old Henrique, for support. Readers follow all three young men—Ian, struggling with his newly defined life; Henrique, already HIV positive for three years; and Victor, afraid to be in love with Henrique—as Rocha depicts each of their perspectives with profound kindness and clarity. More a series of open-hearted conversations than a plot-driven narrative, this debut seeks to tear down the social stigmas surrounding HIV, offering life-affirming scientific facts and addressing prejudicial thinking. The cast of characters is solid: Ian feels alone, but as he adapts to the medicine that’ll help him, that isolating thought withers thanks to the supportive voices who gather around him, including those of Victor and Henrique, who are trying to mediate their newfound, complicated relationship. At times explicitly educational, this treatise on community provides comfort in an often homophobic world, with strong-willed drag queens; drunken, ecstatic nights; and blossoming lovers.
Simply fearless.(afterword, author's note) (Fiction. 14-18)