coming out · Contemporary · diverse characters · HIV · lgbtqia content · mental health

REVIEW: Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha

The Official Description: 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.

Just the facts: Queer characters, HIV positive characters, social commentary on Brazil

Three men… three test results … and three different ways of coming to terms with life’s ups and downs. – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: “Where We Go From Here’ is about living with HIV/AIDS in Brazil. It’s about testing positive, living with HIV in your life, finding out that a loved one is infected, dating when you have HIV and when you don’t… and it’s about living.

This novel is very much driven by the fact that the three main characters are all at different stages of their relationship to HIV.

Ian is eighteen when he goes to the clinic for an HIV test. It comes back positive and his future is defined in a conversation with a nurse. Ian asks her, “where do we go from here?” And she responds with, “you…” He realizes that he is on his own.

Victor is also at the same clinic being tested. He was dating a man who told him that he was HIV positive after they had already had sex. Granted, it was. Protected sex and everything was very careful but victor can’t help feeling as though he’s been betrayed somehow. He sees a distraught Ian on his way out fo the clinic and offers comfort and his phone number. After all, he knows someone who is HIV positive.

Henrique is the man that was dating Victor. He is HIV positive but he’s undetectable. He would never put anyone at risk but he’s still not surprised that Victor has suddenly vanished from his life. He’s not surprised because it’s happened to him before. His previous boyfriend ghosted him after he found out that his own HIV test was negative. He didn’t just move on, he moved to an entirely different country.

There are some really relevant perspectives in this book. One of the things that I found most poignant was Ian’s first thought after finding out about his positive test: “What will HIV take away from me?” Being diagnosed and “dealing” with it are such personal journals but it’s interesting to see the way in which the characters differ in this story.

Victor goes through several emotions and internal battles throughout the course of this novel. He finds himself feeling connected to Henrique even while feeling terrified to continue a relationship with him. He’s young and still learning how to communicate his feelings and it certainly trips him up a few times over the course of his relationship with Henrique.

Henrique is struggling to believe that life with HIV is ever going to be “normal” again. Even though he knows that having HIV is no longer a “death sentence”, he’s exhausted by how much effort all of his relationships seem to take.

Everything in the novel comes to a head when Henrique and Victor have a huge argument. They both say hurtful things in the heat of anger and can’t seem to move past it. But, a horrible incident in Henrique’s life gives everyone an opportunity to work together.

The characters in this book are interesting and I really enjoyed the different perspectives shared in this novel. There are many people still living with HIV and it seems as though there is still a struggle for many people in Brazil in terms of the discrimination they face.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) character has HIV status revealed publicly (malicious intent), positive HIV test results, ghosting, intense arguments, angst, lots of discussion about HIV/AIDS.

Readalikes: Other stories that are similar or give the same feel.

Links: Goodreads // The Publisher

I received an ARC of Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha from PUSH via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

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