Saturday 4 December 2010

Review: Soul Love - Lynda Waterhouse

This review is part of HIV/AIDS in YA Lit Week organised by Caroline from Portrait of a Woman.  For more information check out Caroline's post here

Living with the past can be difficult, even at fifteen...

Jenna doesn't want to betray her friends and won't reveal the truth behind her exclusion from school, so she is sent away to live with her aunt in a sleepy countryside village.

It's here that she meets Gabriel, who seems so genuine and different from other people she knows.  But she is wary of him at first - lately boys have been nothing but trouble for Jenna, and Gabe can be moody and withdrawn.

Despite her caution, Jenna can't help falling in love with Gabriel, and the longer she spends with him, the more deeply she falls.  Could he be her soul mate?  He seems to be the only one who understands Jenna and doesn't leap to conclusions.  But then she discovers that Gabriel is living with a deep secret of his own...

Visit Lynda Waterhouse's website for more information

When Jenna gets in trouble and gets expelled from school she is sent away from London to live with her aunt in a quiet country village.  She doesn't want to get her friends in trouble by explaining what really happened and is determined to keep her secret.  While living with her aunt she meets and falls for Gabriel, but Gabe has a secret of his own.  How will things change between them when the truth becomes known?

This is another one of the books I reviewed as part of the YA book bloggers campaign to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and I found it really interesting to find out more about what life is like for a HIV sufferer.  I'd never really thought about the way people can sometimes look at someone with HIV.  I liked the comparison that one of the characters made about how if you are suffering with cancer people will offer you sympathy and help but if you have HIV people look at you differently, like it is your own fault that you caught it.  I think it is sad that we live in a society where people can be judged for something that was completely beyond their control.  Yes HIV can be caught by sharing contaminated needles which you could say was somebody's own fault but that isn't always the case and even if it is what right do we have to judge someone who has become a drug addict?  How are we to know what happened in their life that turned them down that path in the first place?  What about people who were infected by a blood transfusion or because of a sexual assault?  Even if it was caught through consensual sex with a partner that is something that could happen to any of us.

I think it is important to read stories like this one and think about how a sufferer must feel.  Not only are they dealing with a life threatening illness they have to cope with the attitudes of their family, friends and even strangers, I'm not saying that this reaction is always negative but it saddens me that sometimes it can be.  There is no cure for HIV and AIDS so the only thing we can do is try to stop it from spreading.  The best way to do this is by raising awareness about how it is transmitted and ways to prevent it.  This book would be a great way of opening a discussion with teens and adults alike and I'd strongly recommend it to anyone.

Although the story talks about HIV that isn't the only theme - its really a coming of age story.  Its about learning who to trust and also about not giving into peer pressure and being forced to do something you know is wrong.  At the beginning of the book Jenna acts like a sullen, sulky teenager and I was irritated by her childish behaviour.  We don't know the full story of what happened in London but the fact that she refused to talk about it annoyed me.  As you find out more and get to know Jenna better you understand why she didn't want to speak up.  As she adjusts to life in the sleepy village she becomes a much more likable character and you want to see her turn her life around.  By the end of the book she is like a different person and I enjoyed seeing the change happen.

I don't want to say too much more for fear of spoilers but this was a lovely story and one I'd recommend.  The romance is sweet and endearing and although the ending isn't what I was expecting it was true to real life which I liked.  If you're looking for a touching story about romance and first love you should definitely check this one out.

Source: Library

Other Reviews:
Portrait of a Woman (review and author interview)
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

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