Just Between Us by J. H. Trumble
Luke Chesser is a high school junior and band member. We met him as a character from Trumble’s book, Don’t Let Me Go. This is not really a sequel, although the story is richer if you read the earlier book. In that book, Luke “came out” because of Nate, a senior who was his first relationship and subject of a hate crime. Luke is still looking for a good relationship and thinks he might find it in Curtis, a college sophomore who is helping the band this summer. The two are strongly attracted to each other, and Luke is hurt and at a loss when Curtis suddenly rejects him.
The reader knows (but Luke doesn't know) that Curtis has just been told by a former boyfriend that he has been exposed to the AIDS virus.
Curtis keeps his secret, even after a verifying test, and we all would like to shake some sense into him, because while this is huge and possibly fatal information, we also see that Curtis has a very supportive family who would help if he would let them. It is true that Curtis has just spent the last year exploring many sexual avenues and now feels guilty, self-destructive, and depressed. Luke is just too sweet, he thinks. Curtis needs to face that year again if he is to face the AIDS. He is also not getting treated.
Luke is meanwhile facing problems with his own family. His father is not supportive, and in fact cannot seem to fight his homophobic reactions. In one instance, he hits Luke. Luke has romanticized his relationships since Don’t Let Me Go. He is now a year older, and more mature, but still emotionally naïve.
There are very few books that cover the fallout and repercussions of HIV, but Trumble does it beautifully, creatively interspersing the story with updated facts you all wanted to ask. We truly care about Curtis and Luke; when they hurt each other, we hurt too. That too is done well in only a few YA books. Certainly in this one.
Recommended ages 15 up.