Book by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin
Review by: Shalece Nuttall
Academic Advisor
Utah Valley University


Postive: A Memoir is the story of Paige Rawl, an HIV-positive athlete and honor roll student, her experiences during her middle school years, and the after effects throughout her high school years. One night at a school “lock-in”, Paige had told her best friend that she was HIV-Positive. A few hours after telling, the bullying began. It was small at first, Don’t drink after her,” She had AIDS (p.62). Soon her best friend didn’t talk with her anymore. Things gradually got worse; Paige experienced name calling, notes left on her locker, and cyber bulling from so-called friends. Finally, Paige realized her school was “beginning to feel like hostile territory” (p. 94).

Throughout the bullying Paige met with her middle school counselor, even after her mom told her “…it’s mostly the bad kids who see counselors. They don’t have any time for the good kids” (p. 16). She met with her counselor anyway, but the counselor didn’t believe her or investigate the issue by asking other students about what was going on. Paige just wanted her counselor to help her. Instead her counselor told her “this is enough drama” (p. 95). Paige felt that by reporting the incidents of bullying that she was experiencing, she was creating a problem, so she stopped reporting them. She started to not care about her school work, having fights with her mom, and eventually tried to commit suicide by taking too many pills. 

Throughout her experience, Paige realized that what was happening was wrong and decided to do something about it. She filed a lawsuit against the school for discrimination based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She also started sharing her experience with other children and youth who had AIDs, led anti-bullying vigils, and was honored as one of five HIV heroes in the country. (p.243). She was able to share her experience to help better the lives of others.

After reading this book, I believe that advisors can take away two important things. First, advisors need to pay attention to and believe students. The events in Paige’s life didn’t happen while she was in college, they happened while she was in middle school. If her middle school counselor had believed and supported Paige, investigated what was happening, instead of stating her situation was “drama,” (p. 232) then maybe she wouldn’t have had to endure the bullying.

Second, advisors need to encourage students to have confidence in what they want to do, what they want to become, and in themselves. Advisors should support and encourage students, and be a positive source. One of my favorite quotes in the book is, “Look confident. It’s all about confidence. Have fun with it. Be yourself” (P. 43). Not all students come to advisors with confidence. Advisors may have to find ways to encourage them to see the confidence that is hidden within them. They need to help them develop and show their confidence to others around them.

Although this book is a quick read, and different from what may be found on an advisor’s shelf, it is worth an advisor’s time. I would encourage all advisors/counselors in the K-12 setting, post-secondary education, as well as anyone who has a child, niece, nephew, or grandchild in middle school or high school to take the time to read this book. After reading, advisors will realize that if given the opportunity, one can rise above any challenge and accomplish great things.

Positive: A Memoir (2014). Book by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin. Review by Shalece Nuttall. New York, NY: Harper Collins. 272 pp., $18.99, (Paperback). ISBN 978-0-06-234251-5

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