Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha // A must-read thought provoking book about HIV

50160953

Where We Go From Here

by Lucas Rocha

eARC, 288 pages

Published June 2nd 2020 by Push

✰✰✰✰.5/5 stars

An absorbing debut novel about three gay young adults in Brazil whose lives become intertwined in the face of HIV, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Bill Konigsberg

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go. 

I received an eARC of this book through Edelweiss Plus in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warning: homophobia, HIV stigma, status reveal, self-hate

I wish more people are talking about this book because it is such an important and well-written book.

Where We Go From Here tells the story of three individuals- Ian, Victor, and Henrique- all coming together in the face of HIV diagnosis. While HIV is not a death-sentence the disease was, the stigma surrounding the disease is still persistent and thus the nuances are not often discussed. Our 3 main characters represent the 3 different relationships with HIV and by seeing the story through their eyes, this book manages to discuss about the nuances of HIV in such depth and humanity and allow us to reflect on our own internalized prejudice.

  • Ian is at the stage where he just found out he has HIV. Despite knowing HIV is not lethal, Ian was understandably scared, filled with self-blame and loathing, and felt like he could not talk with anyone due to the surrounding stigma. He was in a low point in this story and I’m glad to see him finding support and care he needed as well as accepting his new condition and being there for others.
  • Victor is arguably the most privileged of the three- his family is accepting, he lives with his parents and is attending a university. His chapters were admittedly the hardest to read because of how much blaming and internalized prejudice there. And yet it’s also a really important part of the story; he knows his fear and prejudice are wrong but it is also realistic as not everyone can be as directly accepting. He has the most character growth and it doesn’t absolve him, but it will have readers to take a hard look on themselves and questions whether they are as accepting as they think they are.
  • Henrique has been living with HIV for three years and represent people who are living with HIV. Despite leading a normal live, his side of story showed us the prejudice and fear people living HIV are constantly faced. On sudden regulation changes, on running out drugs they needed, on status exposure as well as rejection from their loved ones. The majority of his storyline deals with how the disease still manages to disrupt his life despite being undetectable.

The characters are all wonderful and very well-developed. All of them started and ended up at a different place, a better place by the end of the book. We got to know the characters intimately as we see them at their low points and it helps readers empathize and humanize others. While this book focuses on HIV, this is not their whole identity as we see how their family and support system shaped them. I’m really really happy that all of them has such a great support system- Gabriel for Ian, Eric for Henrique, Sandra for Victor- and how they are there for each other and form such a strong bond.

I am can’t talk about representation and setting since I am not #ownvoices for either, but I find some tidbits about life in Brazil very interesting and it makes me want to visit the country (after this whole thing is over, of course!)

I find that this book is also really easy to read. The writing is simplistic but manages to conveys the emotions and the story just flows really well. We also get more information on HIV; on the terms, the disease itself, the public health system response in Brazil, as well as some discriminating law in place such as the immigration ban. But not once I felt like we’re being info-dumped with all the information, the writing is just THAT good!

While Where We Go From Here deals with some heavy topics, this book never loses its warmth tone of hopefulness and compassion. It manages to represented HIV through the lenses of 3 different individuals, each representing different perspectives, that makes us empathize and challenges our own prejudices and motives. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s informative and most importantly, it humanizes the individuals. If you don’t have this book on your TBR, I strongly recommend you to read it.


8 thoughts on “Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha // A must-read thought provoking book about HIV

  1. yay, i was super looking forward to this review, tasya!

    like you put, victor’s chapters were the most frustrating to read, but i appreciated the fact he had friends who were willing to call him out on his prejudice and he does grow. i think it was an important perspective to add because unfortunately, it’s still realistic for even teenagers to have internalized a lot of misinformation about HIV.

    i really liked how realistic the portrayal of being a college student in brazil was. i also liked that the author made sure to talk about different family dynamics, in which some were more accepting than others as well.

    it was interesting that because i listened to the audiobook, at the end there was an entire section talking about the differences in HIV treatment in brazil and the US – where the book was published. unfortunately, it can be a lot harder for americans to get access to medicine because of their health care system and it made me even more thankful that in brazil we have free access to them!

    Like

    1. Thank you Lais! Yeah despite how hard Victor’s chapters are too read, they add to the nuances and I’m also happy to see his friends call him out. And it’s really great to see how Brazil’s PH system provides free access to necessary HIV needs; in my country I think they are freely accessible too but there are just too many barriers and stigma for people to even get tested in the first place 😦

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s