Positively

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Overview

"When my mother died, I imagined God was thinking,'One down, and one to go.'"

Emerson Price cannot remember a time when life was ordinary. She was four years old when she and her mom were diagnosed as HIV-positive — infected with the virus that causes AIDS — and eight when her parents divorced. Now she is thirteen and her mother is dead. Emmy moves in with her father and stepmother, but she feels completely alone. Even though everyone has ...

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Positively

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Overview

"When my mother died, I imagined God was thinking,'One down, and one to go.'"

Emerson Price cannot remember a time when life was ordinary. She was four years old when she and her mom were diagnosed as HIV-positive — infected with the virus that causes AIDS — and eight when her parents divorced. Now she is thirteen and her mother is dead. Emmy moves in with her father and stepmother, but she feels completely alone. Even though everyone has always accepted her, no one — not her father, or stepmother, or even her best friend — understands what it's like to have to take medicine every single day and to be so afraid of getting sick. Now Emmy misses her mom more than she ever thought she would.

When Emmy's dad and stepmother send her to Camp Positive, a camp for HIV-positive girls, Emmy is certain she is going to hate it. But soon she realizes that she is not so alone after all — and that sometimes letting other people in can make all the difference in the world.

Author Courtney Sheinmel has written an unforgettable novel about strength and hope in the face of tragedy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Courtney Sheinmel has captured, with honesty and perception, the complicated thoughts of thirteen-year-old Emmy Price as she navigates her life during the difficult months following her mother's death from AIDS. Emmy, who's HIV-positive, not only must deal with the loss of the person she loved the most, but must face her own illness with a new sense of heart-wrenching reality. I cheered every one of Emmy's cautious steps on her journey to make a place for herself in a world without her mother." — Ann M. Martin, author of A Corner of the Universe and A Dog's Life

"Utterly enthralling, Positively tugs at your heartstrings from the first page and doesn't let go. Courtney Sheinmel has created such a believable character in thirteen-year-old Emmy that I didn't want to leave her. This could be the most important book you read all year." — Wendy Mass, author of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

"Courtney Sheinmel's powerful tale of teenager Emerson Price's journey growing up with AIDS sends a torpedo right to the heart. I loved it. Never preachy, Emmy's story feels as if you've delved into her personal diary. I cried and I smiled and eventually felt a sisterhood with Emmy, whose message 'anything is possible' made me cheer." — actor Marlee Matlin, author of Deaf Child Crossing

"SHeinmel believably portrays the frustration and anxiety of a girl carrying a particularly heavy burden into the adolescent years of possible romance and growing independance...Kids with thier own health issues may find this provides some useful perspective...while other readers will be drawn by "could be me" drama."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Publishers Weekly
After her mother dies of AIDS, 13-year-old Emmy is left to grapple with the virus her mother unknowingly passed on to her through pregnancy. When Emmy acts out, her father and his second wife, who are expecting their first child, send her to sleepaway “Camp Positive,” for HIV-positive girls. Despite her reluctance, Emmy begins to find solace with girls who face similar obstacles, but a friend leaving camp because of declining health, sparks stark realizations: “You couldn't ever get away from AIDS, ever. You couldn't ever change anything.” Emmy's most transformative moment—a conversation with a camp counselor who tells her, “I'm not saying this disease is easy. It's not easy at all. And I can't explain everything that happened, except to say that life is weird”—leads to a convincing baby step toward Emmy finding peace. Sheinmel (My So-Called Family), who reviews for PW, occasionally crosses into political territory, but Emmy's plainspoken narration and reflections on the loss of her mother and her illness (“People had to be nice to me because I was the one with the saddest life”) are wrenchingly authentic and quietly powerful. Ages 9–14. (Sept.)
VOYA - Ava Ehde
Emerson "Emmy" Price struggles with all the usual daily difficulties of being thirteen, like fitting in, grades, and relationships with the opposite sex, but her burden is heavier with the early passing of her mother as a result of AIDS and her own daily concerns of viral loads and T-cell counts as an HIV positive teen. Emmy loses her emotional balance, her routine, her security, and her biggest supporter. "Mommy. . . . It was two words put together, like a compound word: ‘Mom' and ‘me.' As if we were connected, even though there wouldn't ever be a Mom and me again." Even the strong interest in boys by her best friend, Nicole, makes Emmy uncomfortable because she can never forget that she has AIDS and is therefore different. She cannot imagine ever having a boyfriend, husband, or even growing up at times. Her father's decision to send her off to Camp Positive for girls who have HIV angers Emmy, but a whole new world opens for her once there and surrounded by other girls struggling with so many of the same issues and heartaches. This valuable story discusses uncertainty, very human fears, and most important, hope. The reader is drawn to Emmy, who is ultimately a courageous character, and the lessons at Camp Positive are priceless. It is a terrific introduction to a complex and important topic. It might also serve as an eye opening assignment or discussion piece. Reviewer: Ava Ehde
Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
Emerson is HIV positive. It is such a part of who she is that she does not know who she would be if she did not have to swallow mouthfuls of pills everyday. She was born HIV positive after her mom unknowingly contracted the virus from a previous boyfriend, before she was married to Emerson's dad and got pregnant. Since her parent's divorce, Emerson has felt like only she and her mom can truly understand each other and share their experiences. Then her mom's sickness gets the better of her, and Emerson is left alone, surrounded by people who she feels cannot possibly understand. She tumbles into a world of depression and grief, and it is not until her estranged father and new stepmother send her to Camp Positive to be with others who share an understanding of what it means to be HIV positive and to lose friends and family that Emerson can truly begin to live again. Courtney Sheinmel has created a believable and likeable character in Emerson; many young adults will be able to relate to her. Though not everyone has been touched by the effects of the HIV virus, most teenagers know what it feels like to think that no one else can possibly understand what they are going through. The story itself does get off to a slow start, and the true plot does not pick up until the middle. However, those that can muddle through the beginning will find this to be a very touching story. Reviewer: Jeanna Sciarrotta
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—Emmy is infected with the HIV virus, and her mother, infected before she married Emmy's father, dies of AIDS at the beginning of the book. Angry and alone, the 13-year-old moves in with her semi-estranged father and newly pregnant stepmother. At a loss for how to help Emmy recover from her grief and alienation, they send her to a summer camp for girls with HIV and AIDS. There she realizes that she is not alone, not the only person to take handfuls of pills on a daily basis, not the only girl who worries about the complications of dating with the virus. She returns home with a new perspective, welcoming her half sister into her life and admitting her newfound desire for a happier, more "positive" existence. Emmy refers to her condition alternately as being HIV positive and infected with AIDS, which may confuse readers grappling to understand the difference. What does come through is her very real anger and her fear about her future. Some readers may find the plot development slow, but Emmy's situation is compelling and underrepresented in YA fiction.—Nora G. Murphy, Los Angeles Academy Middle School
Kirkus Reviews
HIV-positive Emmy has to put her life back together when her mother dies of AIDS. She moves in with her estranged father and his pregnant wife, and the stress sends Emmy into bouts of anger. To help Emmy deal with her grief and her own illness, her father and stepmother send her to Camp Positive, a summer camp for HIV-positive girls. Though the time away from home doesn't cure Emmy's fears and doubts, the wisdom she gains from her fellow campers and the staff enables her to go home with a little more understanding of herself and her illness. Emmy's sullen nature often makes it difficult for readers to connect to her, but the adult characters are drawn well, with both faults and dimension. There are many subplots, including the birth of Emmy's stepsister, but none of them gets much time or attention. This is a book that fulfills a specific need, but its overall flaws make it unlikely to be passed from reader to reader and gain a following. (Fiction. 9-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416971696
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Courtney Sheinmel is the author of All the Things You Are, Sincerely, Positively, and My So-Called Family. She graduated with honors from Barnard College, part of Columbia University, and attended Fordham University School of Law. Courtney lives, works, and writes in New York City. Visit her at www.courtneysheinmel.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

When my mother died I imagined God was thinking, "One down, and one to go."

We were an ordinary family up until Mom got sick. I don't really remember what it was like to be ordinary, since I was only four years old when it all changed. Most of my life I've been different from everybody else.

But sometimes I look at the pictures of us from before. A regular family. A mom, a dad, a little girl. I can tell when Mom was getting sick by how old I look in the pictures, and whether or not I have bangs. The fi rst time Mom got really sick was right around the time I started to grow out my bangs, so my favorite pictures are the ones where I still have bangs and I know for sure that she was healthy. When my bangs are too long and clipped back from my forehead, I know that means Mom is closer to dying.

I don't remember the first time Mom told me she was sick, and that I could get sick too. It seems like something I've always known. At fi rst, Mom just had a cold. It wasn't a big deal, because people get colds all the time, even though Mom was the kind of person who never got sick. But I was in preschool, so she thought maybe I'd brought home germs from the other kids and given them to her. She figured it was just a normal cold like regular people get. Except Mom's cold just wouldn't go away. She went to the doctor and he put her on antibiotics and said it should clear up in a few days, but Mom got worse. One night she couldn't breathe at all, and Dad rushed her to the hospital. It turned out she had pneumonia, but it was more than that. The doctors at the hospital said the reason Mom had pneumonia was because she also had a disease called AIDS. They said Dad and I also had to be tested to see if we were infected with it too. Dad wasn't, but I was. They figured out that Mom had gotten infected before I was born, and I got it when she was pregnant with me.

Mom went on special medication for people with AIDS, and she got better for a while. Even though I wasn't sick, the doctors said I could get sick at any time because I was HIV-positive, which means the virus that causes AIDS is in my blood. From then on, Mom and I had to go to the doctor every couple of months. They tested our blood for things called viral loads and T-cells. If our viral loads were high and our T-cell levels were low, it meant we could be really sick. My blood was drawn so many times I wondered if I would eventually run out. Every time Mom or I got a cold or a stomachache, we had to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn't something worse. After a while, I started having to take the medication too. Sometimes Mom would look at me and start to cry, but usually she pretended she wasn't crying. She would say something dumb, like there was something in her eye or she was remembering a sad movie.

The last thing Mom said to me was "I love you to the sky." It was this game we used to play from when I was little. "Do you love me to the top of my head?" I'd ask. "Higher," Mom would say. "Do you love me to the top of that tree?" "Even higher." "Do you love me to the roof?" "Higher than that." "How high do you love me?" I'd finally ask, and Mom would say, "I love you to the sky."

She died on a Tuesday morning. Afterward the men from the funeral home came to take her body away, and Mom's friend Lisa took me outside. It was too hard to breathe in the house, but the air outside was cool and crisp. It was April, and we sat on the lawn in front of the house. I bent my legs and rested my chin on top of my knees. It had happened way too fast. She was coughing and coughing for months, but she didn't seem that sick. And then all of a sudden she was really sick. My parents had divorced when I was eight years old, so my dad didn't live with us anymore. When Mom got too sick for us to live on our own, different people came to stay. Mom's father came up to Connecticut from Florida; then her sister, my aunt Laura, came in from Colorado. The last two weeks Lisa had come. And we had nurses in and out of the house. But I still didn't really believe that Mom would actually ever die. Even after it happened, I wasn't sure I believed it. I always thought that we would be all right, just because I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Lisa put her hand on my head. I had known her my whole life. She and my mother were best friends from college. I pretended it was Mom's fingers running though my hair. Lisa was pulling at a knot in my hair and my mother was dead. I could hear the ordinary, everyday sounds — wheels against pavement, wind rustling the leaves in the trees. A car drove by, like it was any other day. Why was everything still moving? I felt like everything should have stopped. How was I still breathing? I sucked in my breath and held it to see if it was possible to make time stop, but I could still feel my heart beating in my chest and I let my breath out slowly.

"What can I do, Emmy?" Lisa asked.

I didn't answer. Mommy, I said to myself silently, matching up the word to the beats in my chest. Mom-my, Mom-my, Mom-my. I said it over and over again in my head, like I was calling out to her. Mommy. It was a weird word. It was two words put together, like a compound word: "Mom" and "me." As if we were connected, even though there wouldn't ever be a mom and me again.

I thought about who I was right then, on the last day I had a mother. I had just turned thirteen. I was finishing up seventh grade. I was on the short side; my hair was just past my shoulders. That was how she knew me. The problem is, when someone dies, you keep growing. Things about me would change and she wouldn't be there to see them.

And what if I forgot things about her? My grandmother had died when I was nine, and there were things about her I couldn't remember. Like her voice. I couldn't remember anything about it, not even how she sounded when she said my name.

Sitting on the grass with Lisa, I could still hear Mom's voice in my head. I closed my eyes and could hear her saying my name. I decided to practice remembering it every day so I wouldn't ever forget it.

"Emmy," Lisa said, and I opened my eyes. "I spoke to your father. He said he wants to come over, but I told him I needed to ask you."

I thought of my father driving up our block in his white sedan and pulling into the driveway behind Mom's red car. "No," I said. "I don't want him to come here."

It didn't seem right for Dad to be at Mom's house. After all, he had divorced Mom. He had a new wife, and they were even having a baby. Mom had wanted to have another baby after me. I had heard her once talking about it with Lisa. She wanted me to be a big sister, but then she was diagnosed with AIDS. Now Dad was having a baby without her. "I wonder if he even cares that she's dead," I said.

"Oh, Emmy," Lisa said. "Of course he does."

I knew Lisa was probably right, but I didn't want to think about Dad anymore. There would be plenty of time for him. I used to see him only every other weekend and for dinner on Tuesday nights. The last couple of months I hadn't seen him as much because Mom didn't feel well and I was spending time with her. Anyway it didn't matter because now I'd be living with him...and with Meg, my stepmother, his new wife. I hated thinking about her as my father's wife, since that's what Mom used to be.

I wanted to concentrate on Mom and no one else. I tried to hold a picture of her up in my mind. I was full of Mom, but Mom was gone, so I was full of emptiness. It felt like something sharp was pressing behind my eyes. I squeezed them shut but they still felt raw and open. What happens when you die? Did Mom get to see her mother? I didn't want Mom to be alone, but I didn't want anyone else to get to be with her. I still needed Mom with me. I hooked my arms around my legs like I was hugging them. Lisa moved closer to me so there was hardly any space between us. "It's all right to cry," she said.

I pressed my face hard into my knees. The top of my jeans felt sticky. The inside of my chest hurt like it was bleeding. Was that what it meant to be bleeding internally? I hated blood. I always tried to stay away from sharp things so I wouldn't get cut and start bleeding. Seeing blood always reminded me that I was infected, and most of all I hated this stupid disease. I was curled into a ball and Lisa rocked and rocked me. It was getting cooler. During the day the sun beats down on our front lawn, but the sun had already moved, so it was behind the house and we were sitting in the shade. Soon it would be dark. I didn't want the day to end. At least today I had seen my mother. But tomorrow I wouldn't see her at all, or the day after that, or the day after that, or ever again. I made myself say it in my head: You will never see Mom again. I kept my face pressed against my knees for as long as I could, until all the snot and tears made it hard to breathe, and on top of that, I had to pee. I hadn't been to the bathroom since Mom had died. It seemed ridiculous to have to sit up and blow my nose and go to the bathroom. How could I still have to do things like that? I knew later on Lisa would try and make me eat dinner so I could take my pills without getting nauseous, and then I would brush my teeth and change my clothes and get into my bed.

There were so many things to do. I had to keep breathing, and I would have to put things into my mouth and chew and swallow. And I would have to go to the bathroom and go to school. None of it made any sense, since Mom was gone.

And then there were the other things we would have to do because we were still living and Mom was not, like pack everything up and give things away. Right now all of Mom's clothes were still in the big closet in her bedroom. But it would all get packed up. My stuff would be packed up too. The pictures would be taken off the walls. Lisa would go back to New York City, where she lived, and I would go to Dad and Meg's house.

Technically Dad and Meg's house would be my house now too. But home was where all Mom's stuff was — the furniture, the pictures. I wasn't sure where I would put all the pictures of Mom. I knew Meg wouldn't want me putting them up on the walls around Dad's house. And what about the rest of Mom's stuff? I wondered how I would squeeze everything important from Mom's house into my one little room at Dad's. We wouldn't have crunchy peanut butter in the fridge anymore. That was something only Mom liked.

From now on, everything I did would be things I did without a mother. No matter how much I wanted her. No matter how much I needed her. Mom was the only one who knew what it was like to have to take pills every day, and to be scared of getting sick, and to feel different. Now I would have to miss Mom too, and I wouldn't even have her to help me. It wasn't fair.

I didn't want to go back in the house without Mom. But I really had to pee. I lifted up my head and wiped my nose with my sleeve, just like a little kid. My mother was the kind of person who always had tissues in her purse. I turned back to Lisa. "I wish you could live here forever," I told her. If Lisa stayed, I could still live in my house. We wouldn't have to clean out Mom's closet or take all of the pictures off the walls. I thought maybe if I said it out loud, it would come true, even though I knew really it was impossible. Lisa lived so far away. She had a husband and a baby. Her husband called every day to check in. I knew he wanted her to go back home.

"Oh, Em, I know," Lisa said. "I'm so sorry."

"How long are you staying?"

"I'll be here until the end of the week," she said.

Did the end of the week mean Friday or Sunday? Friday was only three days away. I really hoped she meant Sunday. Then I thought it was awful of me to be worrying about the difference between Friday and Sunday. My mother had just died, after all.

"Can I stay here with you until you have to leave?" I asked.

"Absolutely," Lisa said.

"I have to go to the bathroom," I told her. I stood up and watched Lisa push herself up from the ground. She wiped her palms on her jeans and put her arm back around my shoulder. We walked up the steps and into the house together. This is the first time I'm walking into my house without having a mother, I thought, and then I stepped inside.

Copyright © 2009 by Courtney Sheinmel

Chapter 2

The funeral was two days later. My aunt Laura, my uncle Rob, and my grandfather had all come in the day before, and of course Lisa was still there. The house felt strange, like it was too full. I was still used to it being just Mom and me. I thought maybe if I fell asleep, when I woke up it would turn back to the way it was before. But it was impossible for me to sleep at all.

In the morning the sun came through the window and lit up my room. I had let it get very messy. The clothes I'd worn the past couple of days were on the floor, along with a hundred other things that had been in my closet. It had been hard to figure out what to wear. All those months that Mom was coughing, I didn't think she was dying and I never thought about asking someone to take me to the mall to buy an outfi t to wear for the funeral. The thing was, Mom was always the person I went shopping with. I tore everything out of the closet and threw it on the floor. Afterward, I looked at all my clothes lying there. There was no reason to put them away. I was going to have to pack it all up anyway when I moved to Dad's, so I just left them there.

Lisa came in to make sure I was awake, which of course I was. She was holding a cup of coffee. I could see the steam rising off of the top. I watched her step around my clothes carefully so she wouldn't fall and spill the coffee everywhere, but she didn't say anything about the mess. I sat on the edge of my bed with my legs crossed. I was wearing a light gray dress that Mom had bought me a year before, at our favorite store. It had been at the very back of my closet and when I tried it on it was too short, but when I stood in front of the mirror I actually thought it looked better that way. My hair was pulled back tight in a half ponytail. It gave me a little headache but I didn't want to loosen it because I kind of liked the way it felt.

"You're dressed already?" Lisa said. She was still wearing pajamas — leggings and an old shirt of Mom's. It said Fleetwood Mac: Sold Out on the back. I nodded. "You look very pretty," she said.

"Thank you," I said.

Lisa sat down next to me on the bed. She put the coffee mug down on my nightstand. Once when I was visiting Dad, I put a can of soda down on one of the side tables and Meg got upset because I didn't use a coaster. She said the wood could get ring stains. But I didn't care if the coffee mug left a mark. Lisa moved her palm across the comforter to smooth it out. I kept thinking, This is what I will be wearing when my mother is buried. I was watching Lisa's hand move across the bed, but I was picturing the coffin being lowered into the ground, and me standing next to the grave in my gray dress that was too short, with my hair pulled back too tight. Then I thought of the other outfit — the one Mom was wearing. Lisa had showed me the dress she'd picked out before she had it sent over to the funeral home. It was rose colored and had a tie around the waist. I blinked quickly so I could stop seeing it.

"Do you want to come downstairs?" Lisa asked. "You can have some cereal."

"I'm really not hungry," I told her.

"I know," she said. She stood up and held out her hand. "Come on." "Is everyone downstairs?"

"Your grandfather went for a walk a little while ago. I think Laura went with him."

"What about Uncle Rob?"

"He was on the phone with someone from his office a few minutes ago," Lisa said.

"His office?"

"Well, it's a weekday," Lisa said.

"Oh yeah," I said. It was hard to remember the difference between weekdays and weekends. I hadn't gone to school in almost a week, and it felt like forever. The last time I was at school, Mom was alive. It was strange that people had to go to school and to work now that she was gone. It still felt like the whole world should have just stopped. But right then, as I was sitting on my bed in the dress I would wear to Mom's funeral, everyone else in the seventh grade was in homeroom.

Lisa was still holding out her hand to me. She shook it a little to remind me it was there, and I took it. We walked out of the room. Lisa's coffee mug was still sitting on my nightstand, but I didn't remind her to take it with her. I don't know why.

I followed Lisa downstairs and into the kitchen. Someone had lined up my pill bottles on the table. That's the thing about AIDS. You can never forget that you have it. Technically I don't even have AIDS — I'm HIV-positive, which means I'm infected but I'm not sick. But I have to take pills every day, like clock work, to make sure I don't get sick. I take them three times a day — with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I have to take them at the exact same times every day, which isn't always the easiest thing to do.

Some people think as long as you take the pills, you'll stay healthy. They think people die of AIDS only if they live in poor countries where they don't have medicine. But it's not that easy. It's just so hard to take medicine all the time. It's like a constant reminder that you're not normal. And some people have really bad side effects, so they can't their pills like they're supposed to. That's what happened with Mom. The medication made her sick, so she couldn't always take the right amount. I only get a little bit sick when I take my pills, and the sick feeling goes away pretty quickly.

At school when I have to take my pills, the nurse doles out the exact dosage, like she doesn't trust me to remember how much to take. But at home it's up to me. I pressed down on the child-safety lock and popped open one of the bottles. When I was little I used to cry every time I had to take my medicine. It tasted so gross and I hated feeling nauseous three times a day. Mom would hold the bottle up and kiss it. "I love this for keeping you well," she would say. I closed my eyes for a second and thought of Mom's voice again. I had learned to swallow pills, so I didn't have to take that awful liquid stuff anymore. But I still hated it.

Uncle Rob was standing in front of the fridge, leaning inside with the door wide open, his cell phone balanced between his ear and his shoulder. "Well that's what you're paid for, buddy," Uncle Rob said. He was speaking loudly, the way he always did. When I was little I asked Aunt Laura what Rob's job was, and she said he put deals together. I pictured him at his office with a deck of cards, dealing them out to a bunch of guys in suits. I still had no idea what his job really was. Uncle Rob turned from the fridge and saw me at the table. "Sorry," he mouthed, and walked out of the room. I heard him start cursing in the hallway.

Lisa put a bowl of cereal in front of me. "Just do your best," she said. I picked up the spoon and pushed down on the flakes floating in the milk. I liked the way they popped back up. Lisa sat down across from me. "Just a few bites, Emmy," she said, like I was a little kid. I felt like a little kid, but I also felt older. I closed my eyes and thought about dipping the spoon back into the bowl, scooping out cereal and bringing it to my mouth, chewing and swallowing. It seemed impossible. My hand felt heavy. I opened my eyes and made myself lift the spoon up in my hand. I dipped it into the bowl and brought the spoon to my mouth. I could still eat. I just didn't want to. "Good girl," Lisa said.

Rob came back into the kitchen. He snapped his cell phone shut and put it in his shirt pocket. He put his hand on my shoulder and tapped his fingers up and down. I took another bite of cereal, but it tasted funny. I could taste the metal from the spoon. I made myself swallow so I wouldn't throw up. "Aunt Laura and I want you to know that you can come to Colorado anytime," Uncle Rob said. "Anytime at all. You can come for Christmas break, if you want. We can go skiing. You'd like that, right?"

"You mean winter break," I said.

"What?"

"You said Christmas break, but they call it winter break, so it includes everyone."

"Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, winter break," Uncle Rob said. He pulled out the chair next to me and sat down. "Whatever you want to call it, whenever you want to come, you are welcome." I nodded, even though I didn't want to go to Colorado. Mom had said maybe we would go to Paris. She liked us to have special vacations. She said we needed to take advantage of having time together.

I didn't want the cereal in front of me anymore. "Do you want the rest?" I asked Uncle Rob. He was always hungry. When we would all go out to eat, he would finish his meal and then eat the leftovers off of Aunt Laura's, Mom's, and my plates.

"Sure," he said. I pushed the bowl over to him and he picked up my spoon. The phone rang and Lisa stood up to answer it. I hoped it wasn't Dad. He had called about a dozen times since Mom died, but I didn't want to talk to him. Lisa said he wanted to see me, but I told her to tell him not to come. I figured if he really wanted to see me, he would come over no matter what I said. Besides, I would have to see him at the funeral anyway.

"Em, it's Nicole," Lisa said. Nicole Lister — my best friend. She had also called a bunch of times since Mom died, but I didn't feel like talking. We'd text-messaged each other. She had written, "luv u xox," and I wrote back, "thx luv u 2." Mom used to read over my shoulder when I was texting, and she would laugh because she thought it looked like another language. "MOS!" I would write Nicole, which meant Mom over shoulder.

I looked at the clock and thought Nicole should be in French class right then, conjugating verbs or something. Maybe she had snuck into the bathroom and was using her cell phone in a stall, or maybe she told the teacher she was calling me and got special permission to leave class. She seemed like a stranger, in a way. I hadn't seen her since Mom died. I realized that was how I was measuring time — by when Mom died. If the last time I did everything was before Mom died, then she didn't feel as far away. Lisa was still looking at me and I shook my head. "I'm sorry, Nicole," Lisa said. "Emmy can't come to the phone right now." I wondered what Nicole was saying back to her. Lisa hung up. "She says the principal is canceling all the seventh-grade classes this afternoon and she'll see you at the funeral," Lisa said.

"It will be good to see your friends, don't you think?" Uncle Rob said. I nodded even though there was only one person I wanted to see, and she would be in a box.

Uncle Rob finished my cereal and left the room to make another phone call. Lisa put the dishes in the dishwasher. I heard the front door open and close and I knew Grandpa and Aunt Laura were back from their walk. The house was full again. Everyone had to get ready for the funeral, but I was already dressed.

Copyright © 2009 by Courtney Sheinmel

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 48 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Breanna F. for TeensReadToo.com

    Emerson Price has had a tough life so far. When she was young, her mother got sick from HIV, which eventually turned into AIDS. Then Emmy's mother and father found out that Emmy had it, too. She got it while her mother was pregnant with her.

    Emerson is now 13 and her mother has just died from AIDS. She was always okay with having HIV when her mother was alive, because her mom knew what it was like. Her father never understood and he ended up divorcing Emmy's mother because the stress was just too much. Now, her father is re-married to a woman named Meg, and she's pregnant. Since Emmy's mother is no longer there, she has to go live with her father - and Emmy doesn't know what to think about it. She just wants her mother back, that's all.

    She feels like she can't trust anyone to be her real friend. She thinks that everyone just feels sorry for the sick girl. Now that her mother is gone, she feels like her best friend is just hanging out with her because she pities her, which is not the case at all. So Emmy starts to push her away.

    When things start getting worse her stepmother, Meg, finds out about a camp called Camp Positive. It is a camp for kids who are HIV positive. Emmy's father makes her go, even though it's the last thing that she wants to do. She has every intention of not opening up to anyone at the camp. But when she arrives there she meets a girl named Whitney who she ends up having a connection with. Soon, Emmy starts to open up because of Whitney and actually lets some emotion out.

    POSITIVELY was such a heart-wrenching story. The whole time I couldn't help but feel bad for Emerson. I couldn't even begin to imagine what living with HIV would be like, especially when you're that young and have just lost your mother. I didn't even think she'd really give Camp Positive a chance at all, but was surprised to find out that she actually made a friend there.

    I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes sad but in the end uplifting stories. This really was a great read and a page-turner. It is also based off the author's experience with the Elizabeth Glaser AIDS Foundation, so that makes this book even more real to me.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2009

    Positively Amazing!

    Courtney Sheinmel succeeds at taking a hard to talk about subject, living with being HIV-positive, and written a highly readable book suitable for all ages. As a mother of two teenagers I found it pitch perfect, and I learned a lot, too! Her portrayal of a teenager dealing with not only the grief of losing her mother to AIDS, but dealing with her own uncertain health, is dealt with honestly, realistically, yet never depressingly.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2012

    My fav

    I absoultely adore this book it is very emotinal and makes me shed a tear this book taught me a lot such as being thankful please read this book i love u courtney sheinmel my favorite author

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2011

    life changingly great

    so inspiring and really taking you into someones life

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 22, 2010

    Amazing!

    I have to admit, I didn't think I would like this book. Boy, was I ever wrong! Emmy is such an inspiring character. this book carries a strong message about the power of hope and POSITIVE thinking!!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2011

    Tear jerker

    It made me cry i loved it so much

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 18, 2011

    Great

    Such a good book
    Its sad though

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2011

    absolutely great

    best book ever....it was really good, one minute i was laughing and the next i was close to tears...must read!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2009

    another moving story from sheinmel

    one of my favorite middle-grade writers. another absorbing, beautifully rendered story.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 14, 2009

    Positively

    The universal theme of feeling like an outsider is amplified for the main character in this book. Teenager Emmy is HIV positive and her mom just died from AIDS. Author Courtney Sheinmel tackles the issue of mother loss, and what it is like to be carrying a virus in your body that causes you to feel like you might be next. She gets inside the main character Emmy, exploring the very real issues kids with HIV face, from "will anyone ever want to kiss me?" to "will I even be able to grow up?"

    When I was a teen, AIDS awareness was everywhere. People were dying in large numbers. The AIDS quilt was actively making it's way around the country honoring lives lost. Today, thankfully, people are living longer with the disease but HIV awareness does not seem to be as prevalent.

    Sheinmel weaves Emmy's story around facts about AIDS. It is both poignant, and educational. Her writing reminds me of the Judy Blume books I grew up reading, with characters so honest you empathize with them and wind up loving them, despite their flaws.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2012

    book

    say luvvveee

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2012

    dont know if i should buy this book?!

    i dont know if i should read this book i have seen the reveiws and they lookpretty positive feedbsk pls!!! thx

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2010

    Courtney has Done It Again

    I fell in love with this book as soon as I read the inside cover. Emmy has such a hard life, and now she has to deal with it without her mom. She lost her mom for good, lost her dad when he left them, lost Whitney when she got sick...Emmy is so strong on the inside, and by the end she learns how to be strong on the outside too. I LOVE this book!!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2009

    AMAZING BOOK

    I loved reading this book. I couldn't put it down because the whole story just grabbed me from the first page. It's serious stuff, but really worth the read and great for teaching people about building strong character and standing up for what they believe in. You have to read it!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2009

    One of a Kind

    POSITIVELY is a book about thirteen year-old Emerson Price who contracted AIDS from her mother while she was still in the womb. For the past nine years they fought the disease together, but when Emmy's mother dies, Emmy is left feeling very scared and alone-certain that no one can possibly understand what it's like to be her.

    When I started reading this, my first thought was, "How would I act if this was me?" As I continued reading, I found myself sympathizing with the character rather than judging her. The author chose to write this in first person, (which she did a great job of btw-I was immediately back to being thirteen) allowing the reader to ride the roller coaster along with Emmy. An excellent read that I highly recommend (especially for parent/child book groups).

    Also, I wanted to note that the author is donating a portion of the proceeds from the book to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation...a very nice gesture.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic Book!

    Like Sheinmel's first book MY SO-CALLED FAMILY, POSITIVELY boasts a stellar cast of fully believable characters and a story that readers of all ages will relate to. Emmy's struggles as she copes with the loss of her mother and her HIV positive status are heartbreakingly real. Readers will be rooting for her as she learns to live with her father and step mom and goes to a camp for HIV positive kids. Emmy's growth is hard won and realistic, and readers will be fully satisfied with the well drawn conclusion. A well written, touching must-read for all!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    To below

    U r weird. Who are you?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2014

    Sliencepaw

    Name: Silencepaw<p> Age: 10 moons <p> Gender: Tom <p> Clan: Bloodclan <p> Looks: Chocolate pelt with amber eyes <p> Rank: apprentice<p> Theme song: Mission Impossible theme <p> Fight song: Ill make a man out of you : Mulan <p> Personality: meet me <p> History: next result if i feel <p> Mate/crush: maybe <p> Kits: your sick <p>Other: not that ill tell you<p> Signature: ~^•_•^~

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    Th p The best book you will ever read

    It made me cry

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2013

    Amazing book

    Loved it
    Almost close.to tears

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews

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