Sunday, January 15, 2023

World Made of Glass

Polonsky, Ami. World Made of Glass
January 17, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
It's 1987, and Iris lives in New York City with her mother, an obstetrician. Her parents are recently divorced, and her father, who is a professor, lives upstairs with his new partner, J.R. Iris understands that her father is gay, and rather likes J.R., but is devastated that her father is dying of AIDS. It's a big secrect, of course, because there is a lot of fear and prejudice surrounding the disease; 15% of the US population thinks that people who are HIV positive should be identified by tattoos. Iris' best friend, Mallory, has moved away, and she's having trouble connecting with her other two friends, Will and Toby, because of the secrets she needs to keep. When a new boy, Justin, moves to their school from the country, Iris confides in him. As her father conditions worsens, Iris takes comfort in the acrostic poems she and her father exchanged. When he's gone, her mother's friend Bob is a big help, and J.R. helps her to understand that there is more action that the community could take to help prevent AIDS from spreading. Justin encourages Iris to get involved in the ACT UP protests, and Iris is surprised when Will, Toby, and even Mallory are there for her as well, and are not judgemental about her father's death. End notes include more information about the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. 
Strengths: Can we please agree that this is historical fiction, even though it's only 35 years ago? Historical fiction, no matter what anyone says, is a story placed in a specific time. The 1980s were a different time, and Iris' experiences dealing with her family dynamics, friends at school, and the public perception of people with AIDS are very specific to this time. The New York City setting makes sense, and there is a decent amount of discussion about gay culture, which will resonate with fans of Gino's Alice Austen Lived Here. Iris is a well developed character whose struggles are realistically portrayed, and supporting characters like J.R., Bob, and even her grandparents are well portrayed. 
Weaknesses: This was rather slow paced-- rather like some of the 1980s young adult titles, actually. The biggest complaint my students have about books is that "nothing happens", so I wish there had been something else in Iris' life while she was dealing with her family issues to appeal to my readers. I also would have liked a few more references to general 1980s popular culture. 
What I really think: There are a few middle grade books that address this period of history; Papademetriou's Apartment 1986, that briefly touches on the issues of AIDS in the 1980s, Grimes The Center of Gravity, Pixley's Trowbridge Road, and Forman's Frankie and Bug. I'm a bit surprised that my library didn't have a number of young adult books from the early 1990s about this; surely there were some. There was a book about Ryan White that no one ever read. I'll probably purchase this one because there is a little interest in LGBTQIA+ history, and this author's Gracefully Grayson is popular.

Ms. Yingling

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