Ian is just finding out that he has HIV, from a lady who resists compassion like it speeds up the aging process. Two times, two guys, without protection, and one of them gave him the virus. And no, he can’t tell them to get tested; they didn’t exactly keep in touch with each other…
Victor is just finding out, from the same lady, that he doesn’t have HIV; that the guy who told him after they had sex that he does but is undetectable, probably wasn’t lying. The lady tells him the guy only has the option, not an obligation to reveal this to a sexual partner. Victor disagrees.
At the bus stop outside the health clinic, they start talking.
Henrique is the guy who Victor had sex with. He wasn’t lying about being undetectable, it’s just that nobody seems to be able to get past those three letters that come before it. He’s a pessimist at heart, and needs his best friend Eric to balance him out.
And from there, their lives and the people in them begin to collide and intertwine.
The characters are young – 18-21 – so HIV being a lifetime deal is, well, a huge deal. Whether having it, or being in a relationship with it, the virus brings baggage that no amount of doctorly reassurance can stamp out. Life is different, even for the undetectable, and it’s different because of more than just the taking of a daily pill.
Henrique does a great job of explaining it to Ian early on. How the knowledge and the fears live in you, and that becomes manageable most of the time. But you’re taking daily meds which can mess with your moods, and it’s hard to spot that at times. And the rejection and fear and all the other things you have to hold onto and somehow find a place for that’s not in the middle of your daily life, they take a toll.
The characters are usually emotional, often selfish, often frustrating, but always in a way which appeals. They’re good people, trying to navigate youth, hormones, and a terrifying virus that touches everything. They screw up, they try to do better, they screw up again…but at their core, they really do try to figure out the best way to be.
It’s easy to fall into their emotions as you follow them around, with each of the 3 different narrators giving you slices of their inner thoughts, in their distinct ways.
Unlike oh so many books with heavy topics, the weight, though there in the characters, isn’t crammed in until you can barely lift a page. Rocha does a great job of showing the reality – good and bad – without lecturing. That makes this a great book.
Just have a tissue or two handy when you read.
Where We Go From Here will be published on May 5th, 2022.