Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin, Authors

Harper Collins, Memoir, Aug. 26, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12-16

Themes: Paige Rawl, HIV-positive children, AIDS in adolescence, Bullying, Suicide, Hope

Book Synopsis: Cheerleader, soccer player, honor roll student. One of the good kids at her middle school. Then on an unremarkable day, Paige disclosed the one thing that made her “different”: her HIV-positive status. Within hours, the bullying began.  They called her PAIDS. Left cruel notes on her locker. Talked in whispers about her and mocked her openly. She turned to school administrators for help. Instead of assisting her, they ignored her urgent pleas…and told her to stop the drama. She had never felt more alone. One night, desperate for escape, Paige found herself in front of the medicine cabinet, staring at a bottle of sleeping pills. That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning.

Why I like this book: Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin have written a realistic, raw, brave and powerful memoir about a teen living with HIV since birth. Although Paige is stable on medications, HIV is such a sensitive subject and tough diagnosis for a teen to deal with — especially when her best friend betrays her. Once Paige’s secret spreads like wildfire at school, the bullying begins. This is one of the best memoirs I’ve read this year. It is a real page turner that I could not put down. Although what happens to Paige is heartbreaking, her courage to reclaim herself and move forward is inspiring. You will find yourself rooting for Paige as she finds a voice she didn’t know she had. Her memoir is written in short chapters and is well-paced. Her voice is strong and determined. In sharing her story, she encourages other teens to find their inner strength in the midst of any storm. And her experience has made a difference for others.

Resources: There is extensive information and facts about HIV, bullying and suicide.  She shares information on programs for kids who are touched by HIV/AIDS, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and programs to stop bullying.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

26 thoughts on “Positive

    • It’s an excellent book for teens and one that schools/teachers should encourage as part of anti-bullying programs. Lack of understanding is a big part of it and so is fear. But, sometimes teens can just be insensitive and mean at that age. What troubled me most was how the school administration failed to support her.


  1. Wow. I imagine being born into that diagnosis is hard enough, let alone enduring other people’s ignorance. Young people continue to amaze me with the strength and resilience. This book sounds powerful!


    • When you are born with a dignosis like HIV positive or a disability, you grow up with it differently. Her mother told her and told her to not talk about it, for this very reason. It wasn’t a problem for Paige. She took medications and that was it. It wasn’t until the sleepover with her best friend since childhood, that they shared secrets and her friend betrayed her in a matter of hours. The bullying was very hard on her. But, somewhere inside her she found her voice. Now she sees it as a gift.


    • I agree with you, Catherine. It is a good book for girls. But, in this case boys contributed to the bullying too. Some girls can be mean. I reviewed a book a few years ago for parents called: Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades, written by Michelle Anthony, M.A., Ph.D., and Reyna Lindert, Ph.D. , 2010.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked the book. Very powerful story. If you have daughters, I recommended a book to Catherine about “Little Girls Can Be Mean.” See below. Need to start early teaching kids to respect one another and especially those with different abilities or issues.


    • Yes, it is a powerful and moving story. But, it also is about how Paige found her voice and moved forward to help others. Mentioned below a book I reviewed for parents years ago, “Little Girls Can Be Mean,” and the importance of starting early to teach them respect.


  2. What a gift this young woman has provided by telling her story. Teens can be so harsh, but they also can be so thoughtful. I imagine the understanding this book will bring will truly have an impact. As an author who writes for young people, this strikes me as a great opportunity to read the perspective of a real teen. Once again you have let me know about a book that I very much look forward to reading.


    • You always leave me with such wisdom with your comments. It is an inspirational story. What disturbed me the most was how the administration handled it at school. They told her she was being too dramatic. This story should be part of anti-bullying programs and one discussed in classrooms. And, yes there are thoughtful teens. Paige now sees how she can inspire others.


  3. Sounds like a great read for adults as well as teens. There is still far too much stigma attached to having AIDS. Great review, Pat!


    • It is a great book for adults to read as well as teens because of the stigma. Need to keep the conversation open. Paige is a real inspiration. I first heard about her book from Jenna Bush Hager (Today Show) when she interviewed Paige. Bought it immediately.


    • Yes, it is for ages 12 and up. I don’t recall enything that would be inapropriate. I think it is a book that all tween/teens should read and discuss. Great addition to any school anti-bullying program.


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