The Unseen Terrorist by Oche Otorkpa

The Unseen Terrorist by Oche Otorkpa
Publisher: Author House
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (128 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

This book a collection of stories on the lives of HIV carriers was inspired by a taxi driver who once told the author that if he knew one percent of what people infected with HIV go through, he would have done all within his power to avoid being infected

Sometimes fear is worse than the disease itself.

The Unseen Terrorist is divided into over twenty short essays about what it’s like to live with HIV or AIDS. The personal stories are by far my favourite part of this collection because they are culled from such a diverse group of people. After Emeka found out he was infected, for example, his family arranged a marriage between him and a woman who had no idea he was sick. The repercussions of that decision affect two families forever, and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew what happened to him and his new bride.

There are numerous grammar and punctuation errors in the text. Certain words are also capitalized in the middle of sentences for reasons I was never able to figure out. At first I wondered if they were translations of slang terms from the author’s culture that carry completely different connotations in English, but my theory was never confirmed or denied.

This book also includes quite a few charts, graphs, photographs, cartoons, and other illustrations. While the vast majority of them were easy to read, I was never able to figure out the words on the flowcharts that appear to be explaining how quickly HIV spreads from one person to the next. The titles of these charts are clear, but the rest of the writing is blurry due to the quality of the snapshots and how small these pictures are. The ones I was able to read were fascinating because they reveal so much about the cultures of the people who created them. The natural course of AIDS for patients who are not on any medication for it is the same everywhere, but the society they live in has a huge effect on whether they have access to those drugs, who they do or don’t tell about their diagnosis, where they live and work, and a long list of other factors that affect quality of life. I wish I would have been able to puzzle out all of the charts so I could learn more about this aspect of living with HIV because it was such an interesting approach to the disease.

It took me a while to determine if I should recommend this to the 14+ or 16+ age groups. I ultimately decided on the younger age group because so many of the case studies involve people who who had barely reached their teens when they contracted HIV. The inclusion of so many children and young teenagers living with this disease make the lists of statistics come alive. It’s much more difficult to ignore a true story than it is a list of numbers or percentages.

The Unseen Terrorist is a sober look at a disease that affects people from every country in the world. This is something that I’d recommend to adult and teen readers alike.

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