World Made of Glass

Little, Brown. Jan. 2023. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316462044.
Gr 5 Up–It’s 1987, and seventh grader Iris Cohen has a secret. Everyone at school knows her parents divorced after her dad revealed that he is gay and planning to move in with his boyfriend JR, but none of them know that her dad is dying of AIDS. When her father dies far sooner than she expected, Iris is filled with anger at all the people who are scared of getting close to her (including two of her best friends) because of HIV, even though she is not infected and the virus isn’t spread through casual contact. She finds some relief from her anger by joining JR at one of the ACT UP protests on the streets of New York, demanding help for AIDS victims from President Reagan, the FDA, and Anthony Fauci. She realizes with her new friend Julian that people are often willing to help once they know the facts, so she and her friends come up with a plan to educate students at their school. This beautifully written novel explores the complexity of grief while showcasing the stigmatizing fear, ignorance, prejudice, and anger surrounding the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s. Iris is a sympathetic, authentic character whose love for her father shines through in the acrostic poems they composed for each other, which appear throughout the novel. All of the main characters are white, with the exception of Iris’s friend, Will, who is described as the only Black student in Iris’s grade in their private school. An author’s note at the end offers a brief history of the AIDS crisis and the ACT UP movement, while expressing the hope that the book will inspire readers to fight for justice in their own ways.
VERDICT With its sensitive portrayal of loss, and its carefully researched depiction of a devastating time in American history, this lyrical novel is highly recommended.

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