Simone is HIV positive. Her dads try to be supportive, but sometimes end up overprotective and think that the best way for Simone to manage her sexuality is with abstinence. But Simone would really like to have sex one day and she's really attracted to a boy at school. Will he like her if she tells him about her illness, even if it's well-managed? As they get closer, this question features more and more prominently in her consciousness-- especially when she receives threatening messages in her locker from someone threatening to tell everyone that she has HIV if she doesn't ditch the boy she likes and go back to being alone.
FULL DISCLOSURE is such a timely, amazing book. It does for sexuality what THE HATE U GIVE did for racial violence. It's a book that deep-dives into an issue that a lot of people can't, or won't, talk about, and does so with depth, sympathy, and a great story. The whole time I was reading this I felt really sad, because books like this weren't around when I was a teenager and I really wish they were, because I learned more from this one tiny novel than I did with a whole year's worth of "Health" classes.
Rather than go into multiple paragraphs about everything I liked about this book, I'm going to resort to my handy-dandy method of lazy review writing: the checklist.
FULL DISCLOSURE is amazing because:
✔️ DIVERSITY EVERYWHERE. Simone is black and bisexual. Her best friends are Asian. One of them is an asexual lesbian and the other is also bisexual. Simone's fathers are black and Latino. Simone's crush is black. Simone's doctor is a hijabi Muslim. This is the first book set in San Francisco that actually represents the city in all its diverse glory, and it's one of the things that I love so much about California. It made me so happy to see a world reflecting the reality in which I live.
✔️ Sex positivity. There's a lot of frank talk between Simone and her friends about sex. The book opens with Simone's dads literally sitting with her as she meets with a gynecologist and talking about some of her contraceptive options as someone with HIV. Sex is dealt with in a positive, open, healthy way-- I wish all sex talks were this positive, tbh. It reminds me of a documentary I watched about Dutch sex ed. classes and how they begin when kids are age 4. Teaching kids that their bodies are normal-- that sexuality of all kinds-- is normal, makes for a much better society. I loved this.
✔️ Great relationships. Even when the going gets rough, Simone's relationships are all #goals. She has a fight with her friends over a totally valid reason, and end up stronger than ever because of it. She has a fight with her family over a totally valid reason, and they end up stronger than ever because of it. She has some tough convos with her HIV support group, but they rally around her when she needs it. It's unusual to see a book that manages to portray such closeness, and still manage to convey the usual tensions that any normal relationship is fraught with, without making things look toxic. This book oozed love and support, and did so in a way that wasn't forced or fluffy at all.
✔️ Musical references galore! I love musicals and it was great to see the heroine of this novel be so passionate about something. A common complaint I see in YA is that the heroine has no hobbies or interests outside of her love interest, and that is so not the case here. Simone is the creative-director in her theater class and her passion for it shows every time she brings up the topic.
✔️ A great villain. I honestly didn't see that twist coming and when the inevitable showdown happened, it was so realistic and so well-handled that I wanted to cry. This book could have been ruined so easily by a cheesy strawman argument, and it was not.
✔️ Normal teen things. These teens have authentic voices and actually sound like teenagers. You feel, when you're reading this book, that you're eavesdropping on actual teen conversations and not reading the thinly-disguised morality play of a forty-year-old parent proselytizing to the next gen. Simone often made me laugh with her zany sense of humor, and that lightened up some pretty serious and angsty moments in this book that definitely captured those infamous teenage "lows."
In short, FULL DISCLOSURE is a really great book and I hope to see it in a lot of school libraries and maybe becoming a movie one day, just like THE HATE U GIVE did. The AIDS scare of the 1980s caused a lot of misinformation about the virus to circulate, and that misinformation continues to this day because people don't want to talk about it. Well, someone finally did, and if this book opens the door to those very serious conversations then that is a wonderful and marvelous thing.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars
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