Review: Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl & Ali Benjamin

Book Title: Positive: A Memoir
Authors: Paige Rawl & Ali Benjamin
Publish Date: August 26th, 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Memoir
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
An astonishing memoir for the untold number of children whose lives have been touched by bullying. Positive is a must-read for teens, their parents, educators, and administrators—a brave, visceral work that will save lives and resonate deeply.

Paige Rawl has been HIV positive since birth, but growing up, she never felt like her illness defined her. On an unremarkable day in middle school, she disclosed to a friend her HIV-positive status—and within hours the bullying began. From that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. Paige was never sure when or from where the next text, taunt, or hateful message would come. Then one night, desperate for escape, fifteen-year-old Paige found herself in her bathroom staring at a bottle of sleeping pills.

That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning. Paige’s memoir calls for readers to choose action over complacency, compassion over cruelty—and above all, to be Positive.

Disclaimer: I got this ARC in an exchange with another blogger. Thanks again Lili.

Review:
Words cannot express how much I loved this book. I am going to try and do it justice but I doubt I will. Paige Rawl’s experience was so much like my own in middle school that sometimes I had to put the book away and just concentrate on breathing before I broke down in sobs. And sometimes I sobbed anyway. 

Having a life-threatening illness myself, I have often felt isolated and kids in school (middle school and especially high school) treated me like garbage. And no one ever did anything to help me. In middle school, I was told “boys will be boys” as they called me awful names, pulled chairs out from under me, used their height and size to overpower me as I tried to leave the room. No punishment was ever doled out to them.

And in high school, especially my sophomore & junior years, it was even worse. Boys would hide my wheelchair so I couldn’t walk very far, they would call me names and tell me my mom should have killed me. They sprayed their disgusting cologne into my backpack so no one would come near me. 

They even started harassing my mom. 

But the worst incident came on February 13th, 2003. I was heading to class when one of them shoved his shoe into the spokes of my wheelchair. Of course I couldn’t move so I tried to pull the shoe out of the spokes. He kept a hold of the shoe so it wouldn’t come out. I grabbed his wrist and he pulled away, and when that happened, the wheelchair tipped over with me still inside of it. 

There was also an incident with pudding being hurled at me from across the room. I remember that because that was the first time I had people helping me. One person ran to get a teacher and 3 girls followed me into the bathroom to help me clean up. 

At this time I was in a private school with a supposed “zero tolerance for bullying” statement. However, the boys who taunted me were from families with a lot of money. The high school was small so of course nothing was ever done to them. Senior year was much better as we had a new principal who was on my side 100% and he finally came through for me.
Reading all about what Paige went through took me straight back to middle school and high school. I remembered all too well the desperation I felt when no one would stick up for me. I remember feeling so angry and so sad that people were too afraid of the bullies, too afraid of losing money to stand up and do what was right.
I had teachers like Miss Ward who wouldn’t defend me and who would actually blame me even though I was simply trying to defend myself. So I definitely understood Paige’s frustration there. I really think Paige must have been in my head because so much of what she wrote about were things I experienced.We have different health problems but we still faced bullying every single day. Except for the different health problems, I feel like I could have written this exact book with so many of the same things happening to me.
I spent the majority of the book in tears and wanting to give Paige a big hug. This book needs to be in every school library. This book needs to be required reading for students and educators alike. Bullying is still such a widespread issue and I don’t think enough is being done to protect the students. I absolutely adored this book and it’s getting 5 stars. It was raw, honest and emotional, exactly the way I was hoping it would be.  

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