YA literature has emerged as a vital platform for shedding light on the history of HIV/AIDS. These books, aimed at younger readers, sensitively explore the experiences of individuals living with the disease and its broader impact on communities. Through relatable characters and engaging narratives, YA literature fosters empathy and understanding, breaking down stigmas associated with HIV/AIDS.
In addition, these books contextualize the AIDS crisis within its historical backdrop, particularly highlighting the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. They depict the discrimination, social ostracism, and political activism that characterized that era. By incorporating these elements, YA authors educate readers about the past and inspire discussions about equality and acceptance.
By using YA literature to bring visibility to the history of HIV/AIDS, authors empower young readers with knowledge, empathy, and a sense of social responsibility. These books contribute to a broader conversation surrounding the epidemic, encouraging dialogue and inspiring young people to advocate for inclusivity, compassion, and support for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Destination Unknown by Bill Konigsberg
The first thing I noticed about C.J. Gorman was his plexiglass bra.
So begins Destination Unknown. It's 1987 in New York City, and Micah is at a dance club, trying to pretend he's more out and outgoing than he really is. C.J. isn't just out--he’s completely out there, and Micah can't help but be both attracted to and afraid of someone who travels so loudly and proudly through the night.
A connection occurs. Is it friendship? Romance? Is C.J. the one with all the answers... or does Micah bring more to the relationship that it first seems? As their lives become more and more entangled in the AIDS epidemic that’s laying waste to their community, and the AIDS activism that will ultimately bring a strong voice to their demands, whatever Micah and C.J. have between them will be tested, strained, pushed, and pulled--but it will also be a lifeline in a time of death, a bond that will determine the course of their futures.
Pedro & Daniel by Federico Erebia
Pedro and Daniel are Mexican American brothers growing up in 1970s Ohio. Their mother resents that Pedro is the spitting image of their darker-skinned father, that Daniel likes dolls, and that neither boy plays sports.
Life at home is rough, but the boys have an unbreakable bond that will last their entire lives.
Together, the brothers manage an abusive home life, coming out, first loves, first jobs, and the AIDS pandemic in a coming-of-age story unlike any other.
When You Call My Name by Tucker Shaw
Film fanatic Adam is seventeen and being asked out on his first date—and the guy is cute. Heart racing, Adam accepts, quickly falling in love with Callum like the movies always promised.
Fashion-obsessed Ben is eighteen and has just left his home upstate after his mother discovers his hidden stash of gay magazines. When he comes to New York City, Ben’s sexuality begins to feel less like a secret and more like a badge of honor.
Then Callum disappears, leaving Adam heartbroken, and Ben discovers his new world is more closed-minded than he thought. When Adam finally tracks Callum down, he learns the guy he loves is very ill. And in a chance meeting near the hospital where Callum is being treated, Ben and Adam meet, forever changing each other’s lives. As both begin to open their eyes to the possibilities of queer love and life, they realize sometimes the only people who can help you are the people who can really see you—in all your messy glory.
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
It's 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.
Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He's terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he's gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media's images of men dying of AIDS.
Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance...until she falls for Reza, and they start dating.
Art is Judy's best friend, and their school's only out and proud teen. He'll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.
As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won't break Judy's heart--and destroy the most meaningful friendship he's ever known.
We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar
Michael is content to live in the shadow of his best friends, James, an enigmatic teen performance artist who everyone wants and no one can have, and Becky, who calls things as she sees them while doing all she can to protect those she loves. His brother, Connor, has already been kicked out of the house for being gay, and laying low seems to be his only chance to avoid the same fate.
To pass the time before graduation, Michael hangs out at The Echo, where he can dance and forget about his father's angry words, the pressures of school, and the looming threat of AIDS, a disease that everyone is talking about but no one understands.
Then he meets Gabriel, a boy who actually sees him. A boy who, unlike seemingly everyone else in New York City, is interested in him and not James. And Michael has to decide what he's willing to risk to be himself.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She's making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she's HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real--shy kisses escalating into much more--she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she's positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she's terrified of how he'll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone's first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on...