Life and Other Complications
by Heather Mullaly
Favored Oak Press

"'For most of my life I’ve been dealing with the same nightmares, the same secrets, the same shame. And I’m so tired, Olivia.'"

When Aly Bennett moves in with a foster family at the age of eight, she begins attending the support group, Children Living with Life Threatening Conditions. There she meets Caroline, a leukemia patient, and Luke, who has an inoperable brain aneurysm. Nine years after they first meet, they are still friends, but Aly fears her secret may soon be revealed. Though the group knows Aly is HIV positive, they don't know she lied about how she contracted the disease. Now the man who abused her when she was six and gave her HIV is on trial for molesting another young girl, and she has been asked to testify against him. Aly is tormented by the prospect of not only seeing her abuser again but having her friends discover her secret. How will they react when they learn she lied to them? Can they forgive her? Most importantly, can Aly find a way to face the past that haunts her daily?

Mullaly hits just the right tone in this novel about survival and the unbreakable bonds of friendship. Though the subject of young people living with life-threatening illnesses is heavy, the book is more a study of life than death. Mullaly explores the turmoil of first love and friendship. But in the case of these characters, each minute is precious as they are acutely aware of the importance of living life to the fullest. The author brilliantly depicts the anguish that Aly experiences as she contemplates the possible reactions of her friends when they discover her secret. Her shame and embarrassment over the abuse she suffered as a child are heartbreaking. Even with the emotionally charged subject matter, Mullaly maintains a good balance between it and typical teenage problems. Her book is a fascinating read from beginning to end.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home