Quicksand by Anonymous

cover image

Sub-title: A true story of HIV/AIDS in our lives. Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN 9780763660697.
(Age 12+) The author of Quicksand seeks to promote compassion for people infected with HIV/AIDS and respect for those who speak openly about their status. Above all, she wants to 'change the world' so that people living with this disease do not have to keep their condition a secret. The experiences of the author's brother-in-law provide the book with a narrative while information has been gleaned from reputable publications and medical practitioners.
The content and style of Quicksand can be characterised as 'plain speaking'. The author has anticipated questions that readers might ask and answered them in simple, unvarnished prose, interposing information about the illness with descriptions of its emotional and physical effects on her brother-in-law as well as its impact on relatives, friends and colleagues. She writes honestly about how HIV/AIDS is contracted, diagnosed and treated, and examines the reactions of friends and colleagues whose unfounded fears contribute to the social stigma which adds to the distress of sufferers. The book ends on an optimistic note, reflecting on changes in social attitudes towards other medical conditions and hoping that eventually people with HIV/AIDS will be able to reveal their condition without fear of judgmental assumptions and rejection.
Readers may want to discount both the credibility of an author who writes anonymously and a mission that sounds like a crusade. However, the writer's need for anonymity is her message. She would prefer to use her name but has been asked not to by her brother-in-law. Her desire to change the world is the only intemperate statement in an otherwise measured book.
The publisher has recommended Quicksand for readers of 10+. The text is certainly accessible with nine, succinct, clearly defined chapters, a question and answer format, a glossary and an index. However, parents and educators may wish to use their own judgement given the author's decision to write frankly about some aspects of sexuality.
Quicksand is an informative, enlightening and thought-provoking book for older children and young adults.
Elizabeth Bor