People don't want to talk about it. they're scared they might catch it....nobody realizes that there are people like emma out there who have just had a bit of bad luck from one careless mistake.
From The Beat Goes On
At fifteen shy Leyla looks up to her sixteen-year-old cousin, Emma. Beautiful, confident, and popular with boys, Emma seems to have it all. But when Emma learns that she's HIV positive after having unprotected sex just once, Leyla must be the strong one. Supporting her cousin through all the changes, even teaching music to kids in Emma's support group, Leyla promises to keep it all a secret. But when Leyla's gorgeous new boyfriend thinks condoms are optional, and Emma's health begins to decline, Leyla realizes people will never be safe unless they are aware. Will she find the courage to speak out and make people understand?
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Adele Minchin has worked in public relations for four years, first at Campaign Against the Arms Trade and currently in publishing. She is a volunteer at Body and Soul, the self-help organization that supports adults and young people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The Beat Goes On is her first novel and, shortly after its first publication, won the Branford Boase Award for fiction in the UK. Adele Minchin resides in London, England.
Read an Excerpt
The Beat Goes On
By Adele Minchin
Simon & Schuster Children's PublishingCopyright © 2001 Adele Minchin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhen I got home after school I phoned Emma to see how she was and to tell her about the gig on Friday. I didn't know whether to mention Darren or not. We couldn't talk properly on the phone because of my parents anyway. The phone is in the hallway outside the lounge, so they can hear everything. I've been campaigning for my own phone line in my bedroom for years, but Dad says it's as likely to happen as Sadie and Anthony breaking the habit of a lifetime and going on holiday to the moon.
"All right, Leyla, what have you been up to?"
"Sarah and I went to this brilliant gig at the Academy on Friday night: Asian Dub Foundation. It just made me want to be a drummer even more. It's all I want to do, you know."
"Then do it, don't just talk about it. You've got your drums - all you need to do is keep practicing. You'll be a star before you know it."
"I'm not sure about being a star, but I know I could be a good drummer. I just need to find a band to practice with, that's all. Anyway, how are you? How are you feeling?"
"Oh, you know, okay. Fine most of the time. It gets ... you know ... No, I'm fine, I'm fine, honestly."
"Come on, Em, you can talk to me. Don't stop yourself if you want to talk."
"No, really, I'm fine. Listen, there is something I wanted to talk to you about, actually. What are you doing now? Can you come down to the flat?"
"Well, I've got some English homework to do for tomorrow, and ..."
"Tell me about it." Emma groaned. "I am so behind in all of my schoolwork it's not funny. My teachers are on my back about it as well, but I can't exactly turn round and tell them to give me a break because I've just been told I've got HIV and am feeling a bit stressed out lately, can I?"
"Tell them you're having family problems - they always fall for that one. They're well into their stress management these days."
"Oh, I don't know. I just can't seem to concentrate on anything. I haven't been sleeping very well, so I'm knackered half the time, falling asleep at my desk. That's when I'm actually at school and not at the hospital having some test or other done. I've missed so much school it's unbelievable. I'm never going to pass my A Levels next year at this rate."
"Listen, Mum'll have tea ready in a minute, but I can come down at about seven thirty. Shall I ask her if I can stay at your place, and then we can have longer to talk?"
"Yeah, brilliant. See you at seven thirty then," she said, and rang off.
When I arrived at the flat Emma escorted me straight to her room, not giving me a chance to stop and have a quick chat with Aunty Jean, who was sat in the living room watching TV and chain-smoking.
"Did I spot a visitor somewhere in that whirlwind?" she shouted from the couch just as Emma closed her bedroom door firmly behind us.
"I didn't even say hello," I said, catching my breath and struggling to take off my jacket.
"Oh, she's getting on my nerves. I don't want us to end up sitting in the living room with her all night. I thought we could stay in here and chat."
"Fine by me. Get us a drink first, though, will you? I'm gasping."
Emma came bounding back into the room with her arms full of fruit, mineral water, a bag of mixed nuts, and some guacamole dip with tortilla chips. She placed them neatly on the floor at my feet and looked upon her treasure with pride.
"So you're going back to the kitchen for the Coke, chocolate, and crisps then, yeah?" I said, picking up a kiwi fruit, eyeing it suspiciously and wondering what on earth I was going to do with it.
"No way - this is my new healthy eating regime. My doctor has told me that if I pay attention to my diet early on I'm more likely to maintain good health. He's told me all this stuff about how the virus will start to change the structure of my intestines, which means I won't be able to absorb nutrients as well as I would normally, so I've got to get the right balance and correct amount of vitamins and minerals inside me now, to maintain a healthy system and be able to fight off infections."
"Oh, right, I see." I suddenly felt really bad for taking the piss and turning my nose up at her bounty of fresh food. So much had happened, and yet life went on as normal; sometimes I didn't appreciate how much Emma had had to adapt.
"I'll go and buy you a Coke from the corner shop if you want."
"No, no, don't be silly. This cranberry juice looks great to me." I realized how much of an impact HIV was having on every single aspect of her life. Her diet was only one tiny change in the scheme of things that she was having to cope with. But she was just getting on with it.
"A bag of chips or a burger isn't going to kill me or anything," she explained. "They won't do me any harm at all, and the doctor said I shouldn't deprive myself of any treats, but basically I should eat food that is going to give me all the right nutrients so that I stay as healthy as possible. I'm taking loads of vitamin tablets, too. I'm doing quite well so far."
Emma was doing incredibly well. She'd known about being HIV positive for over five months and had coped so well. I'm not with her twenty-four hours a day and she must go through shit when I'm not around to see it, but she's been so brave. I was amazed at how strong and levelheaded she always seems to be. She gets sad and talks about her situation very seriously, but she isn't a total head case; she's holding it together. I'm sure I'd have lost the plot by now if I was her. But you've just got to carry on, haven't you?
Emma spread herself out on some cushions and tucked into the fruit.
"So what's your mum done then?" I asked.
"Well, she's got something to do with what I want to talk to you about, actually." She leant over to her bedside table and reached for what looked like her diary. Opening it, she pulled out some A4 sheets and glossy leaflets. "When I was at my counseling session at the clinic last week, my counselor told me about this group in Manchester that is specifically for teenagers who are living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. It's like a support-center kind of thing. Listen, I'll read what it says in the leaflet. 'Positive Living is a self-help center for families living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. We provide support, information, and counseling in a safe and confidential space where families can come and access our services on a weekly basis. We have a teenage group that meets weekly and offers a unique service to those young people who know of their status or that of a family member. Facilitated support sessions allow teenagers the opportunity to share their concerns and discuss issues surrounding HIV and AIDS without fear of judgment or rejection. During the course of the weekly session a range of activities are organized, along with regular trips every month away from the center.' I just wanted you to have a look to see what you think."
I flicked through the different bits of information. There were loads of messages from the teenagers themselves: their experiences of how much the group had helped them to talk about their situation and how it had helped them not to feel so alone because they were with people their own age who understood exactly what was going on in their lives.
"Do you reckon it sounds naff? Like some crappy youth club or something?" Emma asked.
"I dunno, Em. It might be good to meet other kids your age who can understand what you're going through."
"Yeah, I know, but do you reckon I'd end up being dragged round some adventure playground every week or what?" Emma took the leaflets back and studied them again as if looking for some clues, some advice, some hint of what to do for the best.
"You might have to sit around in a circle and hug each other." I giggled.
"Oh God, that's it then. I'm definitely not going." She threw the leaflets across the room.
"No, seriously. Come on, think about it. At the moment only me, your mum, and your counselor know. I just sit around worrying about you half the time, not knowing how to help, and your mum is a wreck. Your counselor sounds brilliant, but she's not exactly the same age as you, is she; she can't know what it's like to be sixteen and have HIV. There'd be people there who could support you properly, who you could make friends with. You might even be able to get some information from them about treatments and all that sort of stuff."
I wasn't sure if I was being selfish, but I was relieved to find out there was a group out there that might be able to help Em, because I often felt inadequate to help her or to know what she was going through.
"I'm just a bit ... you know ... scared. I mean, I don't know what the other kids are going to be like. What if I don't get on with them? And I don't think I'm ready to open up to a bunch of complete strangers about what's happened to me anyway. Besides, she isn't too happy about it." Emma cocked her head in the direction of the living room. "The counselor told her that it would be a really good idea if she went along to the parents' group at the same time because it would be an opportunity for her to talk and get some help and information. She hasn't got anyone to confide in: Nan is dead. Dad ... well, he hasn't been sighted for years. And it's not as though she's very close to your mum - they barely have a civil word to say to each other. But she's being a stubborn old bag and said she won't go near the place. She doesn't want anyone knowing her private business or telling her how to look after her daughter. She says that she can cope fine on her own and doesn't need anybody interfering in our lives."
"But what about you, though? Is she going to stop you going as well?"
"Well, I don't think she'll stop me, but she is worried about me talking to so many people about my illness and it eventually getting back to someone around here and ruining my life. It's her pride, too, you know. She wants to feel as though I can always rely on her for a shoulder to cry on. She finds the fact that I go to a counselor difficult enough as it is, but the thought of me sharing things with a whole group of people freaks her out a bit, I guess. She won't even look at the leaflets.
"Anyway, I don't care what she thinks. I'm going to go if I decide to, and she'll just have to handle it. It's my life." Emma got to her feet and started tidying things up in her room while I leant over to her stereo to put on a CD.
"You could come with me," she announced suddenly as if she'd just struck upon the best idea in the world. "If I started going, that is." She plonked herself back down on the cushions and looked straight at me with a pleading expression. "I'd just feel so much more comfortable if you were there as well. You understand what I've been going through, you've been there all the way practically, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind you coming along as someone to support me."
I was a bit taken aback. I could understand her wanting some company - it's horrible joining any sort of group for the first time on your own. But it didn't feel right. "Oh, Em, I don't know. I'll think about it. But perhaps it would be better to go on your own. You'll make new friends straightaway. It'll be a bit scary the first time you go but after that it'll be fine. You won't rely on me so much if I'm not there, and you'll probably talk more and get more out of the group, because you'll be forced to join in."
Em folded her arms behind her head and lay back on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. "Yeah, you're probably right. Mum has just unsettled my nerves by being so negative and paranoid about the whole thing. My confidence is a bit low at the moment, that's all."
"So do you reckon you're going to go then?"
"I'm not sure. I'll think about it this week."
We got into our pajamas and sat snuggled up in her double bed together, then talked for ages about school and friends and everything really. I feel as though I can talk to Emma about anything in the world. We played some CDs and talked about music and I got all revved up about being in a band one day and found myself rambling on about my future career as a rock legend.
Emma had pulled out some photos of us on my first day at secondary school five years ago. We were stood outside my house. Emma was four feet off the ground, jumping into the air behind me as I stood with hunched shoulders and stared down in horror at my awful brown Clarks with their sensible cork soles. Emma refused to bend to convention, even at the age of eleven, and had customized her uniform with a silk scarf around her neck and a pink glitter belt around her waist. Not a single hair was out of place on my head and I was wearing regulation everything: knee-length socks that had been bleached for extra whiteness, a starched A-line skirt, and the best regulation navy blue school jumper money could buy. My mum had insisted on me looking immaculate. "You're not showing this family up," she'd warned.
"'The best years of your life' is what they say about school, you know," Emma said softly, not taking her eyes off the photo and letting a few tears drop from her nose.
After school on Thursday, Emma was waiting for me outside the gates. I was on my own because Sarah was staying late for some meeting or other, so I was glad to see Em and relieved not to have to go straight home.
"Let's go to Georgio's for a chat. If we can actually manage to get any privacy there, that is," Emma said.
Georgio's is the café on the high street where everyone from our school hangs out. It's nothing special; it's just your regular greasy spoon. The only reason everyone goes there is because Georgio and the rest of his Greek family who run it don't seem to mind a table of five schoolkids huddling around one cup of coffee between them. Occasionally someone will buy a cheese sandwich and a cheer will go up for the last of the big spenders.
Tucked away right at the back of the café next to the toilets is a booth with high-backed red leather seats, and that's where everyone goes to have a sneaky fag. When you look in from the street you can't actually see who is sat in the booth; there's just a cloud of smoke hovering above whoever's sat there. Different cliques of friends have their own tables. Some groups have even gone so far as to scratch their names into the Formica tabletops to mark out their territory. Every weekday you can guarantee that there will be someone from our school in there. I've never walked past without seeing a splash of navy blue uniform. Sometimes on my way to school at eight thirty in the morning I see gangs of girls already sipping cappuccinos for their breakfast, chins wagging as though they've never left from the night before.
It's a different story on the weekend, though. On Saturdays you couldn't get a seat if you tried. It's chocker-full of grannies blocking the aisles with their shopping trolleys, and mothers with their children and pushchairs.
Excerpted from The Beat Goes On by Adele Minchin Copyright © 2001 by Adele Minchin . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
i really loved this book. i was just walking through the library at school when i saw the cover and it just jumped out at me. i read the excerpt on the back and it got me hooked. i checked it out and couldnt stop reading it. it was a great book i read it in a day and a half. it has a good life lesson: no matter what happens in life, the beat goes on.
The book was about living with HIV.The characters were good and the storyline interesting.Yet I was disappionted with the ending.
Great Book. Great For doing a report!