Living with HIV isn’t easy but seventeen-year-old Aly Bennett has been doing a good job of it along with the support of her best friends. Aly Bennett met Luke Harrison and Caroline Reese through the Children Living with Life-Threatening Conditions support group at the hospital when she was only 8 years old. Luke is living with an inoperable brain aneurysm while Caroline has Leukemia. Even though they’re close, she has never told them the truth about the cause of her HIV. To complicate matters further, Aly is secretly in love with Luke and is too scared to tell him. So when a district attorney from Boston reaches out to Aly to testify against the man who sexually abused her in her childhood and infected her with HIV, she needs to make a tough decision. Should she testify and let her best friends know the truth and risk losing them for good, or should she let that man walk away free once again without justice being served?
The YA novel Life and Other Complications by Heather Mullaly brings together trauma, teen romance, and individual struggles in a skillful and fascinating manner, weaving together the finer threads of complex characters and strong plot points. Mullaly is brilliant at creating characters with dimension and depth. From the first few opening lines in the book, Mullaly uses subtlety and sensitivity to portray the emotions and turmoil within Aly as well as her bond with Caroline and Luke.
The novel is well-paced and the assured prose has the readers at the edge of their seat, wondering what is going to happen next. Teenage drama, a budding romance, familial tension, friendships, guilt, trauma, childhood abuse, and the stigma of HIV are just some of the many themes woven into this contemporary YA novel. The story is poignant and relevant, and it leaves readers with contemplative and lingering questions about the guilt of childhood sexual abuse and the stigma connected to HIV. This raw and gripping novel by Mullaly is a winner.