Summary: Fourteen-year-old Alex Moran spends every summer with his father and this year his dad has moved next door to Benny Harper and his aunt. When he meets Benny, he finds an outgoing boy his own age that shares his love of reptiles. Benny doesn’t have any other friends though because he’s been HIV positive from birth and no one understands. They’re even afraid of him, which is something Alex doesn’t understand at all.
They spend nearly every day together during that first summer and each summer after that they come back together. Their lives change as they grow up, but their friendship only gets stronger until it gives way to love and Alex realizes that his dad moving next door to Benny was the best thing to ever happen to him.
Nothing is as good as being in love with his best friend, and over the years Alex realizes just how much Benny means to him. He doesn’t know how long he’ll ever have with Benny, but whatever time he does have he’s determined to make the most of it.
Review: What to even say about this book. I was really unsure about it. Young Adult isn’t a genre I read often and add in the serious subject of HIV and this had the potential to be a really heavy handed. Luckily for me, it turned out to be a beautiful story of friendship, love and acceptance.
Alex is fourteen when his dad moves next door to Benny and his aunt. Benny spends summers with his aunt and his pet ball python in a room painted black that glows when the lights go out. Benny is so interested in astronomy and the stars, and that’s how Alex finds out Benny has HIV. “Are you going to try to be an astronaut?” “No. I wish though. But I’ve got HIV and I’m pretty sure NASA doesn’t let guys like me into their programs.” Life can be so unfair but Benny is just so incredible. He tells people right away so they can decide whether to be friends with him. And Alex hits it on the head, “I’m taking it you don’t have many friends.” But Alex is going to be his friend.
Alex’s dad is the best, trying to have the sex talk while Alex covers his ears. “Guy or girl, I’m here for you.” Wouldn’t it be great if all kids had that support? And Alex, going off to research HIV so he knows what to expect so he can be friends with Benny, he’s a lot like his dad. Benny not only has HIV but he has a crappy mother and a tough time at school. His solace is the summers, summer with aunt and with Alex. Him explaining AIDS to Alex, and then apologizing for explaining it, was heart breaking.
These two spend the summers together, getting closer and better friends every year. We get little comments about their time apart but the focus is on their time together. Alex’s mom is a psychiatrist and I expected so much more from her. Good thing he has that awesome dad.
Is the story a little fairy tale-ish? Yes in some ways. But I hope more than anything that these two princes get their happily ever after for years and years to come.
You can’t help who you fall in love with and you can’t help what your mom did before you were born that gave you a disease. But you can choose to be the best you can for that one you love. “I’m sorry I’m not healthy and I don’t know how many years you’ll have with me….On the worst days, it was knowing you were right here waiting for me that got me through. And on the best days, I got to be with you.” Young or old, sick or healthy, isn’t that was love is all about?