Until Whatever

Martha M. Humphreys

Until Whatever cover



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High school junior Karen faces peer pressure and high-level moral decisions when she discovers that an estranged friend, Connie, has AIDS. Though Connie--who is from the wrong side of the tracks--has little in common with Karen, the girls were once very close, sharing the pain of Karen's parents' divorce. As the school closes ranks against Connie, citing her reputed promiscuity as the cause of her illness, Karen breaks with her clique and renews her friendship with Connie. Karen's dilemma in wanting to remain popular even while taking an unpopular stand will strike a responsive chord in readers. The graceful handling of a timely subject, coupled with exemplary characterization and a responsive ear for teenage conversation, raises this problem novel above the genre. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) School Gr 7-12-- Karen Thompson is popular, a good student, and surrounded by friends--until she chooses to befriend a classmate who has been diagnosed with AIDS. Karen's close friends, including her boyfriend, abandon her, just as they abandon Connie and blame her for her illness. To its credit, the novel does not attempt to monitor destructive disease processes and avoids a melodramatic ending, choosing to focus on the social pressures AIDS patients face and on the value of constant, caring friends. Unfortunately, the first-person present narration does not always sound natural, utilizing dated phrases such as ``this is deep'' and ``spinning disks,'' which will not ring true to readers. Plot contrivances, such as the use of a physically handicapped brother to help convert Karen's boyfriend to a more sympathetic stance, take away some sympathy from the characters. In fact, the unrelenting ugliness of most of the people surrounding Connie makes reading difficult. College-bound adolescents who act without decency or morality; a school nurse who refuses to help the girl; and parents who pressure their children to avoid her are counterbalanced only by Karen and two other boys who stick by Connie and a brief glimpse of saner faces at a public meeting early in the book. These negative characterizations do add to the intense mood of the novel and to the heroic depiction of the two girls. However, readers are left with a very real sense, given the lack of kindness and support reflected in the novel, that it may not be worth it to make the choices that Karen does. This is a timely treatment of a tragic topic, but it may leave readers despairing for us as human beings. --Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie