ARC Review | Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha

Where We Go From Here

by Lucas Rocha

YA Contemporary, LGBTQ

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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.


Thanks to the people at David Fickling Books for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

As soon as I heard about Where We Go From Here, I knew it sounded right up my street, and especially came at the right time in terms of my current WIP that I’m working on. It also perfectly aligned with LGBTQMonth, so it was an easy decision to pick it up this month!

Where We Go From Here follows the story of three different young men in Brazil – Ian, Victor and Henrique. Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV, Henrique has been living with it for 3 years and Victor has only just found out after sleeping with Victor and goes to get tested. Through romance and friendship, we see how HIV is viewed in modern day Brazil, how far the stigma has come and how far we still have to go!

This was such an important, powerful novel. I really appreciated how Rocha brought the topic of HIV to a YA novel, because I feel like it’s something that’s not explored enough. I also really loved how he fully explored HIV from several different characters’ perspectives and showed the different way it’s viewed in our society.

However, I’m not sure if I completely gelled with the writing style. I found certain parts to be really poignant and important, but then other instances I found a little clichéd. But perhaps that’s just my own feelings! I also understood the character of Victor was meant to be a little unlikable in the first place, but I really couldn’t get onboard and felt bored/angry reading chapters from perspective.

Saying that, I still enjoyed this book and am glad I read it, and I think it should be compulsory for everyone to help de-stigmatise the effects that HIV and AIDS have had on our society since the first outbreak, and also just to illustrate how far we have come since then.


#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Lucas Rocha!

Hi everyone!

I hope your reading is going well! Today I am joined for another interview by the wonderful LUCAS ROCHA author of the recent Where We Go From Here! I encourage you all to go purchase it from your local indies now!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, everyone! My name’s Lucas Rocha, I’m 28 years old and currently live in São Paulo, Brazil. I’m a writer and librarian, and my debut novel, WHERE WE GO FROM HERE (PUSH/Scholastic, 2020), will be out in the world on June 2nd! It’s a book about three gay boys living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, whose lives becomes intertwined in the face of HIV. It’s a story about love, friendship and overcoming prejudices, with a lot of laughter, music and, the most important, people living life at its fullest!


ABOUT WHERE WE GO FROM HERE

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.


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Lucas! Thanks for being a part of LGBTQMonth! I want to first ask – where did you first get the idea for Where We Go From Here?

Thank you so much for having me! It’s an honor and I’m really excited about the book reaching the UK readers! I started to think about this story when I was working at the Brazilian Center of Health Studies, a non-profit organization that publishes a magazine for the diffusion of Health Studies. I worked there copyediting articles, and once in a while a theme caught my attention. One day I stumbled upon an article about how Brazilian people perceive HIV and HIV-positive people in the 21st century, and I saw a lot of misconceptions and prejudices in these interviews. So, thinking of ways to change that, I started to develop these three characters that guide the novel, showing the ways in which they deal with HIV from different perspectives: a character that’s been recently diagnosed with HIV, a HIV-positive character that has been living with his diagnosis for three years, and a HIV-negative character who develops a romantic relationship with one of the others. What I intended was to show that the stories of HIV and HIV-positive people don’t have to be The Sad Story anymore; that they can thrive and, more than surviving, that they can be able to live full, happy and messy lives.

What was it like working with a translator to translate it into English? Were there any difficulties or was it easy?

Working with Larissa Helena, the translator of the book, was nothing but a dream! She’s also Brazilian, so she understands a lot of the humour and was able to translate it perfectly. Overall, we had to make small changes in some of the references in the book for the English readers but, other than that, it was an incredibly positive experience, because the essence of the book is still there. Working with Orlando, my editor – who also has a Brazilian family background – was amazing, because he is such a great editor and all of his suggestions were so on point that he made the story even better.

That’s so great! Did you feel having HIV positive characters was an important decision for you?

Yes, it was. I think that, when it comes to HIV narratives, there’s a lot of books and movies about the Aids crisis and about the inevitability of death or a life soaked in sadness for the HIV+ character. And I know that these histories are important too – I have a lot of them as my favorites – but I didn’t want to talk a story about people dying from HIV; I wanted to tell a story about people living despite the virus, because I think that this should be the focus of the narratives, if we are talking about contemporaries that reflect the reality: HIV does not equal death anymore.

But, even with all the information, there’s still prejudice for HIV+ people, so I hope this book can shed a little light about all the wrong things that we, as a society, presume about being a HIV+ person or having a sexual relationship with a person who has the virus.

I agree so much, balance between the two is so important. In the spirit of LGBTQMonth, what are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ books or TV/films?

HERE THE WHOLE TIME, by Vitor Martins: a sweet queer novel about a fat boy who must share his bedroom with his life-long crush for fifteen days. It is also a Brazilian novel, and one of my favourites because it tackles themes like fatphobia, body image and overall insecurities of growing up being fat and gay, all with a lot of humour and heart-warming moments.

LIKE A LOVE STORY, by Abdi Nazemian: this is one of the most beautiful novels I read in my life. It talks about the power of community for queer people, wonderfully portraits the mess that is being afraid of coming out, and it’s also a tribute to Madonna, to pop music in general and, specially, to love. And, the most important part, it’s set in New York during the Aids crisis and it shows us how young queer people dealt with this new and unknown world. It is just an incredible book.

I loved Here The Whole Time and wow, Like a Love Song sounds amazing! What is the best piece of advice you could give to aspiring authors/artists?

This may sound cheesy, but I guess the ultimate advice is: believe in yourself and what you want to give to the world. There’ll be a lot of people (and, sometimes, your own mind) telling you that there’s better writers/artists in the world, and maybe this is true, but you can only find out if you are one great artist if you put your work on the paper.

Other more practical advices are: finish what you’ve started and don’t delete a project in the middle ground, because you’ll probably come to a point where you will find everything garbage (that’s normal); write first, edit later; and, of course, have fun writing!

Great advice! Did you have a favourite character to write from Where We Go From Here? If so, who is it?

I shouldn’t be the type of writer who picks their favourites, but I cannot stop thinking about how much I love my side characters. I had so much fun writing Eric and all his drag queen friends. I think that they spark a lot of fun scenes along the book. I’m also very happy with Gabriel, Ian’s best friend, just because he is the kind of person who is willing to hop into his old car and drive 100 miles just to make sure his best friend is really okay. I have a lot of people like Gabriel in my life, so he reminds me of my own friends, and that’s a wonderful feeling.

That’s so sweet! Tell me, what does an ideal day of writing look like for you?

Without noises or with a planned playlist, alone, probably in the morning with a giant cup of black and sugarless coffee and nothing else to do besides writing. I really adore to write first thing in the morning, the sunlight still a bit cold on my skin and the thought the I have a lot of time to figure out where I want my characters to be in the next scenes.

And finally, can you tell us a bit about what to expect next?

I wish I could know! Hahaha! I’m trying to use this social distancing time to write as much as my mental and physical health allows, but there’s nothing much that I can say about those stories, only that they definitely are set in my beautiful country Brazil. And I really hope that people can continue to read my books and continue to discover other voices inside and outside the English language, because there’s incredible stories being told all around the world!


Thank you Lucas and thank you again for joining LGBTQMonth in an interview! I’ve loved having you! Where We Go From Here is out now in the UK from David Fickling Books!